The Connelly Theatre has been flipped around for A Play on War, the action unfolding in the rear of the house and up on the mezzanine above. But the play itself—a minimalist journey through a long war with no discernible cause—doesn’t seem like a flip so much as a riff. Inspired by Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children, this NAATCO and Theater Mitu collaboration (conceived by director Rubén Polendo and written by Jenny Connell) feels more like an admiring reiteration of the Brechtian ethos—epic tales painted in bold strokes, bare-bones humor, and cabaret-style song—than anything particularly new.
On a stark, all-white set lit in bloody hues, this show’s Mother Courage (the gratifyingly brassy Mia Katigbak) pushes her cart through combat zones, her two sons and mute daughter in tow. She peddles wares—bullets, boots, booze—to soldiers and watches The Sound of Music on a portable TV, mesmerized by scenes of a family having much more fun in wartime than her own brood. When soldiers arrive on bicycles to recruit her sons, Courage predicts her progeny’s fortunes, and each of their stories—of slaughter, theft, and compassion—is enacted in turn. Though the cast dives in with vigor, their material bags and sags a bit. Brecht fans might simply prefer to revisit the electric original.