Review "Mary": Tying Racism & Homophobia Leaves Big Knot in Stomach!

Goodman Theatre presents
MARY

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At 170 N. Dearborn
Written by Thomas Bradshaw
Directed by May Adrales
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays at 7:30pm
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm
Buy Tickets
Running Time:  Ninety minutes with no intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Illiterate or college educated, people are ignorant!   Goodman Theatre presents the world premiere Goodman commissioned production, MARY.  Based on a true story, the play is primarily set in 1983 on a Maryland plantation.  David invites Jonathan to his parents' home for the holidays.   David and Jonathan are secretly dating.  David's parents suspect their son is gay and want him 'to come out.' The servants suspect David is gay and want his boyfriend 'to go away.'  David is tired of the blatant disrespect and wants to broach the taboo subject... his mother's racism.  Over the generations, the family plantation has gone from housing slaves to servants with minimal differentiation.  His mother refers to her childhood playmate and current servant as 'Nigger Mary.'  Oblivious to his sexual orientation being the house chatter, David sets out on a quest to educate the ignorant.  MARY teaches the perils of religious fervor with or without education.

For a show promoted with a gay theme, this MARY isn't campy!  Back in the day, homosexuals use to refer to each other as 'Mary.'  This practice still exists with older gays.  Don't let the title fool you!  This show is more Nigger Mary than Queen Mary.   Playwright Thomas Bradshaw combines homophobia and racism.  The subjects tie together like a big knot in the stomach.  Listening to characters' passionate discourse on backwards notions is disheartening, nauseating and enlightening.  Persecution inside out!  The basic story intrigues.  Characters are humanized with internal confliction.  The overall scene flow is jerky with an uneven cadence.  Under the direction of May Adrales, the set-up starts clunky and putters through to an unsatisfying conclusion.  Many times, the scene ends abruptly with a character running or stomping off.  It is a series of unnatural and childish speed bumps.  Although there are some comedic moments, the religious overtones are prominent and preachy.      

The talented cast throws themselves into their characters with mixed results.  With his cherubic trademark, Alex Weisman (David) delivers a believable son of a bigot performance.  It's his romantic connection with Eddie Bennett (Jonathan) that feels forced and unsexy.   A delightfully animated Bennett uses every opportunity to instigate laughter with facial and physical expression.    Barbara Garrick (Dolores) is magnificent as a clueless, faded southern belle.  Garrick utters offensive remarks with a pleasant matter-of-fact.  Myra Lucretia Taylor (Mary) continually transforms from meek servant to Christian fanatic to embolden college student to Christian fanatic.  Completely contrary to her entrance, Taylor exits the show with a disturbing, long-winded evangelization.   

MARY isn't the gay next door romp.  MARY tries for the satirical homophobic humor. MARY leaves me an embarrassed heterosexual Christian.  Oh, MARY!   

Invited for a 'campy' Valentine date, Steve describes the show with 'interesting, awkward ending.'

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  • I can't stop thinking about this play. I've seen it twice, and I'm telling all my friends to go see it so we can keep talking about it.

    I'm curious about why Mary left you feeling like an "embarrassed heterosexual Christian." I am also a heterosexual Christian. I thought that the play showed how religion can be used to justify discrimination and bigotry, but at no point in the play did I see religion as the villain (after all, we watch a sweet Christian clergyman quote a lovely part of Corinthians while performing a same-sex marriage).

    Like the rest of the audience, I felt myself freeze up when the southern parents smilingly deployed hateful racial slurs. Still, I was impressed by the fact that these were complex characters - likable and well-meaning and totally limited by the racism of their surroundings. By addressing both racism and homophobia, the play undermines our idealized misconception that people who have known oppression are immune to prejudice. The playwright also seems to be pointing out that people can justify doing terrible things to their loved ones (Dolores, when David confronts her, emphatically assures him that she loves Mary, and that's why Mary's their slave. Mary tells David that she loves him, and that's why she publicly humiliates him and tells him to renounce his "sinful" lifestyle.)

    For me, Myra Lucretia Taylor was the stand-out of a very, very gifted ensemble. Great performances all around, and a challenging script that has kept me thinking. I can't ask for much more.

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