Mary – By Chevelle Blackburne

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

As the audience settles to the 80’s boy band playing in the background, Mary opens to a packing college student named David. He and his lover make plans to venture apart on this winter break until he and John decide to visit David’s parents together in Massachusetts, for the first time. Upon David’s arrival he and his parents joyously reunite until he is left alone with his father where they both are found speechless. As time goes on, John appears in time for dinner with the family, served by nigger Mary. As was the audience, John is shocked at such a derogatory term so freely spoken towards the family help, or any person at all. This then causes David to speak out towards his parents and brings the effect of the term to his parent’s radar. Yet, his parents, and even Mary, stick with the reasoning that the term helps to differentiate Mary from the Caucasian Mary who lives down the street. Meanwhile, his parents feel offended by their son as he believes they don’t suspect their son to be gay and John his boyfriend.

Surprisingly, Mary reveals her own discrimination towards gays. She proceeds to steal David and John’s KY lubrication in hopes of stopping their sexual ‘sin’ as she called it. This act provides evidence to her belief that “God wants [them] to help gays turn away from sinful desires.” Her plan soon after consists of convincing her husband, Elroy, to shoot John with a BB gun in his ‘family jewels’. The guilt that before long erects brings Mary and Elroy to end the previous belief and their ‘homophobia’ or fear of homosexuals.

In another effort to provide Mary with more freedom, David sways his mother to pay for reading classes for Mary. In the future, many wonderful and tragic events take place. John and David get married in 2005, however Elroy has passed. Later, Mary continues through school to major in theology and becomes an ordained minister at age 81 by which time David’s mother has passed away and almost a year later John dies of AIDS.

Nevertheless, Mary graduates and speaks at the graduation as the oldest person to graduate from her college. Once she invites David upon the stage, due to passing of her good friend David’s mother, she advances to denounce David’s sexuality on stage, in public in efforts to once again stop his sinful actions and “end practice of homosexuality”. As it turns out her beliefs are just as lithe as before, yet become stronger against homosexuality. After David, appalled, leaves Mary alone on the stage, she piercingly condemns this practice and challenges anyone who’ll listen to join her ‘army’ in the struggle to terminate the evil brought with homosexuality.

Unexpectedly, playwright Thomas Bradshaw challenges his audience to not believe what they see but base their judgment of this humorless theme on our own values and what we believe is right. This is the first dramatic piece of my viewing where the message was to be chosen and not presented. I cheerfully applaud his addition of humor to so many scenes when carrying such a deep topic. Also, I feel like this production connected a lot of dots between racism and sexual [orientation] discrimination. Many a person has avoided this topic in conversation to keep from sharing their own personal beliefs. Many people also believe that one has nothing to do with the other. However, I believe Mary presents the idea that discrimination is an undying, human quality that we all shall overcome.

Subtly, Bradshaw incorporates many small details for the quick and observant people watching. These included my favorite actor Eddie Bennett, who played John, who often wore snazzy sweater vests with matching socks. Much of the character’s actual pizzazz emerged from Bennett himself. He was to blame for his baby-clap filled excitement and his inflection-full speech giving his character the proper stereotypical homosexual nature. The mother’s personality also stood out as she seemed to feel no guilt or bad feelings, especially from her own deeds. Her happy-go-lucky spirit easily brings up the tone of any scene and her ignorant disposition lightened the reality of the play itself. I only hope the audience witnessed the most positive and just attitude surface from the overall show.