Mother’s Day weekend was the perfect time to see “Mother of the Maid” at the Moxie Theater, because it’s about the ferocity of motherly love.
Playwright Jane Anderson had a brilliant conception with this creation which premiered at The Public Theater in 2018 (with Glenn Close in the lead): telling the story of Joan of Arc from her mother’s perspective.
Who would know her better, given birth to her (she lost another girl, but says “motherhood is a numbers game, and you’re likely to lose a few before you’re done”), bathed her, wiped her nose, held her, calmed her fears .
We’ve all read about the humble beginnings of the saints, but we haven’t witnessed the daily details, like “getting the dung balls out of the sheep’s asses.”
The Arc family, as Anderson presents them, were fifteenth-century peasants living in Domrémy, in northeastern France (the action begins in 1429). They did not consider themselves poor; They were able to feed their children. But they lived in a kind of shack (Yi-Chien Lee’s well-designed wooden slatted structure is beautifully lit by Annelise Raquel Salazar).
In the play, we get a glimpse of their lives and relationships: father-son conflict, mother-daughter push-pull.
We also see what it might have been like to raise a strange, outspoken, headstrong but charismatic girl who hordes of Frenchmen were willing to follow into battle to avoid the marauding English.
And then, as her tragic story goes, she was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English. Her countrymen turned their backs on her, allowing her to be convicted of heresy and burned at the stake as a witch. She was only 19 years old.
All because she had vivid visions of Saint Catherine, who told Joan to lead an army and take back France from English rule.
Her devoted mother, Isabelle (played beautifully, unassumingly, and convincingly by Moxie co-founder and current artistic director Jennifer Eve Thorn), says she believes in her teenage daughter, but also seems to think this could be a figment of the imaginative mind. Joan’s teenager.
Joan’s father Jacques (played forcefully by Dave Rivas) beats her up for it. Her brother (appealing to Zack King; she actually had three brothers, but only one in the play) ridicules her, but then follows her into battle. On the day of her immolation, he was busy getting drunk and paid for her drinks with a lock of her sister’s hair.
The local priest, Father Gilbert (a semi-benevolent Mark C. Petrich, who also plays Joan’s chamberlain at court), was supportive, then stopped.
Despite her misgivings, it was Isabelle who supported Juana to the end, and beyond, walking 300 miles through rain, mud, rocks, and a collapsed bridge, only to see her daughter at the Dauphin’s castle. , the eldest son of the King. from France.
It is Isabelle who visits her in jail and washes her before dressing her in white for burning.
And it is Isabelle, the outspoken illiterate, who spends the rest of her life trying to vindicate her daughter and convince everyone, including the Pope, that Joan was innocent of heresy and touched by God.
She did not live to see her daughter’s canonization (Juana did not become a saint until 1920), but her dedication to her role as a mother was as uncompromising and unwavering as Juana’s commitment to her Creator and patron saint.
Isabelle’s antithesis is Nicole, a Court Lady (excellent Sarah Alida LeClair), rich, educated, indolent, mother of three privileged and pampered daughters. She sympathizes with Isabelle, admires her, even washes her feet, but when it comes to helping her in her time of greatest need, she is completely ineffective. She lacks the courage and tireless determination of the Arc women.
As Joan, Mikaela Rae Macias, a sophomore in Theater Performance at San Diego State University, is completely believable in conveying Joan’s steady gaze, demeanor, sense of purpose, and unwavering faith. But she tends to rush and mix up her words, which sometimes makes her expressions difficult to understand.
Sergio Díaz-Delgado completes the cast as an efficient Guard and Scribe.
Desireé Clarke directs with confidence. Courtney Ohnstad’s wardrobe is perfect for the rich and the poor, and the effective sound design (by Rachel MadCougall Le Vine) includes a humorous, understated version of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” an excellent counterpart to the modern vernacular language. of the work
The swagger and story are gripping, and we want to fully immerse ourselves, but Anderson employs a dramatic device that serves to distance us from the otherwise riveting action.
Isabelle often (and her husband and son on occasion) takes center stage, addressing the audience in the third person (“Isabelle was this, Isabelle thought that”), taking us out of the story. It is unclear what her goal was; Anderson is an award-winning writer for stage and television, and she must know many ways to convey exposure. This interrupts the flow of a fascinating piece of theater.
The approach to the piece is fascinating; the story is unbeatable. It points to another powerful and absorbing production from the Moxie Theater focused on women.
- “Maiden’s Mother” runs through May 22 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. in San Diego’s Rolando district
- Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
- Tickets (starting at $22) are available at 858-598-7620 or at moxietheatre.com
- Duration: 2 hours. 20 minutes.
- COVID Protocol: Proof of vaccination (and identification) is required prior to admission to the theater. Masking is mandatory.
Pat Launer, a member of the American Association of Theater Critics, is a longtime San Diego arts writer and Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her trailers and reviews can be found at patlauner.com.