Review “The Mother” (Oracle Theatre): Truax Heart-Pounding Triumph

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 Permalink 0

I never published my top ten theatre picks for 2013.  If I had, “The Mother” would have been #1.  It was an innovative, impressive, intimate theatrical experience.  And guess what?  It’s back!  The entire ensemble (sans the wonderful Sarah Pretz) returns for an encore production. In a week of 24 show openings, I chose to go to a rerun on Wednesday.  It’s that brilliant!  Chicago has been given a second chance to see THE MOTHER.  Get there!

MY 2013 REVIEW…. 

This MOTHER blew me away!

Oracle Productions presents a musical by Bertolt Brecht, THE MOTHER.

First, it’s a spectacle from entry.  The theatre has been converted to a workhouse.  The intimate space is filled with long, high tables.  The audience sits around the tables on stools.  On the front and back walls, black and white films are projecting.  To the right is a wall of tattered paper headshots.  Imposing men are glaring from their ancient pictures.  The opposite wall is a giant scraps-of-paper collage.  Each table has a designated peasant with their head down.  A uniformed and stately DeChantel Kosmatka (The Commissioner) supervises by marching on top of the tables.  I sit down already a little freaked out.  Then, someone underneath the table silently gives me paper to pass to my table peasant.  As that concealed process is being repeated at other tables, a fierce-looking Kosmatka is on the hunt for the troublemakers.  I’m transfixed and the show hasn’t even started yet.

We watch Director Max Truax’s orchestrated revolution from the insider’s perspective.  His aesthetic vision is actualized with heart-pounding triumph.  The debates, the protests, the killings happen all around and on top of the audience.  With movement direction by Lyndsay Rose Kane, the choreography is passionate while being detached.  Instead of interacting with another actor, the ensemble delivers their line or song turned away from their scene mate.  The audience is able to see the unobstructed pain on the face of the talented cast.  It’s powerful and haunting.

And so is the music. Composed by Jonathan Guillen, arranged by Nicholas Tonozzi and Guillen, designed by Ben Fuchsen, the surround sound melodies fit perfectly into the crammed workhouse.  I’m impressed at how natural the music plays in the Oracle space.  Because of it’s organic feel, I’m convinced that this can’t be Oracle’s first musical.  Yet, it is.   And, the biggest shocker for me is Oracle can sing… beautifully.

In the lead, Katherine Keberlein (Pelagae) magnificently transforms from nervous, overbearing mother to kick ass mother f#cker.  Keberlein mesmerizes with weak to tough metamorphosis.  The ensemble beckons the beaten-down Keberlein with the repeated chant, ‘you are weak but we need your help.’ So, Keberlein returns to lead and dominate the stage literally and vocally.  A poignant “The Bread and Children” is sung soulfully by Keberlein, Sarah Pretz, and Zachary Baker-Salmon.  And the unforgettable “Killing and Singing” number is sung by the cruel and possessed-looking Kosmatka.

THE MOTHER is its own revolution.  The Oracle has birthed a musical and it’s a beauty. If you’ve been waiting to experience Oracle for the first time, this is it.  If you’ve been here before, THE MOTHER is calling you home again.

Running Time:  One hour and five minutes with no intermission

At Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway

Written by Bertolt Brecht

Translated by Steve Gooch

Music by Jonathan Guillen

Arranged by Nicholas Tononzzi and Jonathan Guillen

Directed by Max Truax

Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays at 8pm

Sundays at 7pm

Thru March 1st

Admission is free

Reserve tickets at Oracle Productions

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