Review: Mother of the Maid by Jarrott Productions
by David Glen Robinson
You already know how it ends. Here it is, no spoiler: Joan of Arc, teenager, war leader, visionary, sheep herder, innocent, über feminist, and pivot of history, suffered execution by burning at the stake by the French and the English, May 30, 1431. The high drama of her story in Mother of the Maid by Jane Anderson is foregrounded by the story of Joan’s mother Isabelle d’Arc. Anderson’s play focuses upon Isabelle in the extreme test of faith involving the loss of a child while caught up in high-blown earthly events she could not understand. Isabelle's survival is a tale of strength, survival, perseverance, and groping toward wise but desperate choices that might themselves seem divinely inspired.
The character of Isabelle was written and enacted simply as a mother. As an illiterate peasant woman of great faith in fifteenth century France, yes, but essentially a mother with the joys and fears of all mothers. After her loss, Isabelle adopted a life of physical and spiritual nomadism, paying no attention to priests but instead praying directly to God as her right at altars all over France and Italy. In this, she precedes Martin Luther’s Reformation by about 80 years. This fact passes right by us because we deeply appreciate Isabelle as a mother, not a religious reformer. That is why the last line of the play is so heart-wrenching.
Jarrott Productions deals adroitly with two fairly convoluted tales that are blended and well crafted well by the playwright. The team of producer Will Gibson Douglas and director David R. Jarrott made it all look easy. Katherine Schroeder as Isabelle carried the entire play and showed great range, from nuanced reflection to emotional extremity. Her performance was very well done. The rest of the cast was well-selected and competent. Along with Daniel Norton as Jacques Arc, relative newcomers Alyssa Hurtado as Joan and Christopher Gonzalez as Pierre Arc maintained the high energy of the play. Rosalind Faires gave a serene, extremely well-styled performance as a lady of the court, as we would expect of such a character. The triply roled Beau Paul offered three contrastive character explorations.
Set designer David R. Jarrott seems to be settling into a design esthetic of heavily abstracted sets divided laterally into thirds laterally, an approach accommodated by the wide Ground Floor Theatre playing space. In Mother of the Maid the central third is defined by an arch, through which many entrances and exits were made. Columns stood to the right and left. Most of the action was downstage. The space upstage of the arch and columns was empty but lit for effect whenever needed. Amy Lewis's lighting explored the needs of the play thoroughly, projecting patterns and colors throughout the set and punctuating scenes with blackouts and work lights for rearranging set furniture. Craig Brock's sound design featured enlivening music as well as crowd noises and, in particular, environmental sounds, a sonic element frequently neglected in current theatre.
The commitment and attention to detail by all the fields paid off in a very smooth opening night performance. This reviewer detected only one dialogue bobble and no miscues of any type. Jarrott Productions continues to set high standards and meet them show after show.
Mother of the Maid runs until May 6, 2023, at Ground Floor Theatre on the east side. The tragedy of Joan Arc and her mother is not to be missed by the thoughtful.
April 21 - May 06, 2023
979 Springdale Rd
Austin, TX, 78702
April 21 - May 6, 2023
Ground Floor Theatre, Springdale Road, Austin
Ticket prices range from $15-$35 and advance reservations are strongly suggested as this is sure to be a sold out run.