“Mother of the Maid” Shows No Weakness, at Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley.
Jane Anderson Presents a Captivating Set for Motherhood at It’s Most Challenging Moments
By Kelli Donovan Fleitas
“God has a plan for me” – Joan of Arc
I’ll be honest, with someone as iconic and supernatural as Joan of Arc, my anticipation witnessing the telling of her life from the viewpoint of her Mom had me about as excited as drinking a soda after the ice cubes have melted. On a hot day.
So I was thrilled when I took my seat at MTC and thrusted back to 1429. The stunning medieval set design by Sean Fanning exposes dark wood beams crisscrossing, creating the Arc’s simple hovel. While upstage, in the shadows, floating just above the ground and up to the ceiling, the transepts of a Roman Catholic cathedral took my breath away. Maybe Joan’s Mom has more to say than I thought.
We join in the story as Isabelle (devoted Sherman Fracher) attempts to connect and understand her teenage daughter Joan, (stoic Rosie Hallett) who reveals she has been called by God, (specifically St. Catherine) to leave her home and join the Dauphin to help rid France of the English.
Fracher’s Isabelle is an easily recognizable mother of a teen: devoted, desperate to connect, and inexplicably frustrated. But we see the apple does not fall far from the tree; Joan’s unyielding spirit inherited from her mother. Joan moves around the house moody and hardly talking. Isabelle trying to connect, but unprepared for her daughters religious fervor and communing with saints, inevitably pushes her away slapping her repeatedly for lack of respect. Yet she is also Joan’s stalwart advocate. Whether convincing her husband Jacques (formidable Scott Coopland) to let Joan go with the Dauphin or walking 300 miles to see her daughters face, or insisting a Lady of the Court (vibrant Liz Sklar) get a letter to the Dauphin on behalf of Joan. Isabelle is unwavering in her loyalty to her daughter. Demonstrating the depths of her love for her child, Isabelle had me and several other audience members sniffling more than once. Hearts broke as Isabelle lovingly and calmly cleans and dresses her daughter in preparation for the stake. Fierce in her love to the end, she holds her, and tells a broken Joan what she needs to hear, calming Joans fears in the face of a torchurous death.
Jane Anderson’s “Maid” felt like a true rendering of Joan and Rosie Hallett does a credible job of weaving Joan’s humility, insecurity, intelligence and introverted nature into a glimpse of the hero and enigma. Scott Coopland gives a moving performance describing the last moments of Joans life.
The set is a powerful presence as the weight and power of the church hang literally and figuratively over Isabelle. Though somewhat dissimilar American accents are mildly distracting, the majestic church/castle setting refocuses any wayward thoughts.
“Mother of the Maid” is a rich story both visually and emotionally. It will leave you in awe of the power of love, and never accepting the limitations others set for us.
Marin Theater Company, extended through Dec 15th.