Joan of Arc—the 14th-century French warrior teen and canonized saint—can’t keep away from the stage. This past spring, the sensational Condola Rashad portrayed her on Broadway in a Manhattan Theatre Club revival of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan. Last year, Talking Heads ex-frontman David Byrne wrote a rock musical based on her life, staged at the Public Theater. Now Joan’s back at the Public in Mother of the Maid, a new take on the old tale. This is a historical family drama in which the holy visions and tragic execution of Joan are filtered through the perspective of her practical, dubious mother, played by Glenn Close.
After decades of working in film and TV, Close has been slowly reintroducing herself to theater audiences. She appeared alongside John Lithgow in a solid revival of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance on Broadway in 2014; last year she reprised her larger-than-life performance as Norma Desmond in the musical adaptation of Sunset Boulevard. Now she’s off-Broadway in this new work by playwright and screenwriter Jane Anderson.
Anderson is no stranger to strong-willed matriarchs. She won an Emmy in 2015 for her uncompromising HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge (featuring Frances McDormand as an emotionally prickly Maine woman), and Close can currently be seen in her film adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s literary-feminist wake-up call, The Wife. Three years ago, Mother of the Maid was workshopped by the Massachusetts troupe Shakespeare & Company.
Grace Van Patten takes on the pivotal role of Joan, the teen with God on speed dial and a national destiny to fulfill. Van Patten has showbiz in her veins. Her father is producer-director Timothy Van Patten; her uncle was the late actor Dick Van Patten; and her aunt is actress Joyce Van Patten.
If those aren’t reasons enough to check out Mother of the Maid, consider this: For today’s young women, the world is both encouraging and deeply distressing. On one hand, there’s more accountability for men who harass and discriminate against women. On the other, the world is still run by an old boy network that will always protect its own. We need to shake things up, disrupt the old order. In other words, we need Joan.
Why You Should Go: The majestic Glenn Close plays a mother with a marvelous but difficult teen at the Public Theater.
Mother of the Maid
425 Lafayette Street (at Astor Place), NoHo
Through Sunday, December 23