Joan of Arc, known as The Maid of Orleans was a peasant girl living in medieval France, who believes that she received visitations from an angel calling her into war. A 19-year-old uneducated girl with no experience with war convinced the Prince of Valois to allow her to lead an army against England (known as the Hundred Years’ War) and take the city of Orleans. After being victorious, Joan was considered the heroine of France and canonized as Anglo-Burgundian forces captured a Roman Catholic saint, tried for witchcraft and heresy and burned at the stake.
Northlight Theatre brings this historical story of the saint, Joan of Arc through the eyes of her mother in Mother of the Maid. The play begins with the incomparable Kate Fry, who is one of Chicagoland best, she plays Joan’s mother, Isabelle Arc. Joan (Grace Smith) is featured here as a typical teenager girl. Distant from her parents, belligerent with her brother and disinterested with boys; which wasn’t normal. As she sits down with her mother cleaning out items from the wool, Joan shares her visitations with her mother and what she believes God’s calling is on her life.
Her father Jacques (Kareem Bandealy) and Pierre her brother (Casey Morris) don’t believe God has called Joan, however, after Father Gilbert’s (Ricardo Gutierrez) visit, Isabelle is delighted that she has been blessed to be the prophesied mother of a virgin destined to save France. Joan cuts her hair and changes her clothing to appear as a man; she along with her brother through enemy territory go to meet the Dauphin, and after hearing about Joan’s success Isabelle decides to travel to the castle to see Joan.
Director BJ Jones is in his 22nd season as Artistic Director of Northlight; he does an excellent job bringing the story of the mother and her feelings about her only daughter being considered the maid; perceived savior of France. Casting Kate Fry in any role is a plus, and she excels as a humble mother, living a meager existence which is just trying to provide for her children.
Grace Smith, was good as the insolent young Joan who feared no one and truly believed she was called by God. Smith and Fry’s connection on stage was touching, sharing a mother and daughter battles, love and fears were so real and beautiful. Hayley Burress, Ricard Gutierrez and Penelope Walker, who always provide a superb performance rounds of the cast.
Grace is thrilled to make her Northlight debut. Smith, who transcends from a peasant girl to saint Joan was both angelic with her love for God and devilish as she threatened to kill those that stand against her calling.
The ending where Joan is tossed into a dark dungeon, bruised and looking undernourished brings out the best of Fry and Smith. Isabella goes to Joan in her cell to help her prepare for the burning. There loves as mother and daughter shine and the fear and pain of knowing you will not see each other again brought tears to the eyes of the Northlight audience. Fry stands on the stage, reminiscing about having an exceptional daughter, and as the light dims, we leave knowing a little more about what it feels being the mother of the maid.
Joan of Arc was found guilty; sentencing her as a heretic and burned. Her life lives on in history as a saint, and in 1920, she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV, and many believe she was indeed called by God to save France.
Let’s Play Recommends Mother of the Maid at Northlight Theater.
Northlight Theatre opens 45 season with
Mother of the Maid
By Jane Anderson,
Directed by Artistic Director BJ Jones
September 12 -October 20, 2019
Filed under: ChicagoNow