Goodman Theatre’s ‘Mary’ has lots to say, little to show – By Brittany Garrett

May 25, 2011 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

In an almost appalling display of human faults, “Mary” tackles every issue from race to religion to sexuality. These 90 minutes of uninterrupted discomfort brings up the various topics usually left alone.
This one-act play starts off with two male lovers, David (Alex Weisman) and Jonathan (Eddie Bennett), packing to leave their college dorm and visit David’s mother and father (Barbara Garrick and Scott Jaeck, respectively). As if the not-so-subtle hints given from their clothing, voice tones and the “Wham!” poster aren’t enough, David and Jonathan take no time at all before making out on stage to freely express their homosexuality. Once finally at David’s parents’ house in Maryland, the audience finds that the people who raised David are tremendously ignorant and have no thought to the different lifestyles of others. While Jaeck nails the role of the disapproving father who simply wants his boy to be a man, Garrick fittingly depicts a woman lost in the times. Although it is 1983, the family still possesses two slaves with a scarily calm sense of normalcy. Of course, this couple is not referred to as “slaves,” but what else would one call African workers who live on the property and do not get properly paid?

Mary, the female slave played by Myra Lucretia Taylor, is what some would consider an ultra-Catholic. She quotes the Bible to her husband, Elroy (Cedric Young), to make up for her irrational ideas to rid David of his boyfriend. When Mary realizes that this is not the most moral of decisions, she again resorts to the Bible to excuse her actions. Although she is the quiet, disciplined servant in the household where she works, her own house is her kingdom and she is the voice of reason for her and her husband Elroy (Cedric Young).

The relationship of Mary and David is a confusing one. While David grows up with Mary almost as a mother, she is still the slave type. When Mary tries to scare Jonathan away, she is only doing it for what she thinks is the greater good of David. Yet, toward the end, after David gets Mary into college, her education does not help to enlighten her. It is hard to decide in this relationship who is the good guy and who is the bad.

The many implied sex scenes between every couple in the play and the very charged language certainly make “Mary” one for the kids to stay at home, or even the parents too for that matter. This strong storyline calls for deep thought, but particular details simply make things awkward. Although many more inappropriate television shows and movies are out there, there is high doubt that anyone would go to a play to see this many dirty innuendos. The amount of sexual humor is far past the point of necessary.

As far as actual talent goes, it is hard to say which actors deserve praise, especially with the cliched dialogue. Weisman and Bennett almost overkill their characters. The true star of the entire play is Taylor. Her portrayal of Mary gives the audience something to connect to.

The plot is indeed controversial as it contains many themes usually left untouched. However, there are reasons these matters are not typically brought up. The uncomfortable and appalling feeling that results from this play is not worth the ticket price.