Mary – By Nora Cowlin

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

I’m not sure how to describe Thomas Bradshaw’s “Mary” other than repeating what the couple sitting next to me quickly dismissed it as- a sitcom. Receiving predictable and almost canned-sounding laughter from the audience, it felt like watching just that. The characters were all well executed, David and Jonathan seemed as much in love as college students could be, and everyone else fit perfectly into their almost comically stereotypical roles- the slightly racist parents, the happily naive and subordinate servants. Moments such as Elroy and Mary plotting to shoot flamboyant Jonathan in the crotch, or mom Dolores buying her husband James a contraption to help him overcome his erectile dysfunction, force the audience to share a laugh over their love-able antics and momentarily forget the whirlwind of problems surrounding the characters. For starters, the main character David has just returned home from college with his partner Jonathan, the only problem is that he’s not formally out to his parents and wants them to think that he and Jonathan are just friends. Of course, his parents are quick to catch on but decide to respect his privacy and wait for him to come out in his own time. On the other hand, Elroy and Mary, the household servants, are equally quick to catch on to the nature of David and Jonathan’s relationship but decide to take matters into their own hands, plotting ways to remind them that homosexuality is a sin. One has to admit that it does sound remarkably like a sitcom plot. That is until you remember that it’s 1983 in the middle of the AIDS crisis, and Jonathan realizes that a past partner of his may have contracted the disease. If that’s not enough the nature of Mary and Elroy’s employment is quickly called into question. Mom Dolores and dad James are perfectly comfortable calling Mary “n-word Mary” to distinguish her from a neighbor, and it quickly unfolds that not only has Mary’s family worked on the estate since long before emancipation but that she is also illiterate and isn’t paid for her work. And so the plot unfolds. As the play continues along its humorous yet somewhat predictable plotline it seems that a happy ending is in sight. The characters were undoubtedly still dealing with their issues, but there was still a lightheartedly theatrical air about it. And just when the play seems to end, there’s a major plot twist in the last 10 minutes of the performance. As the final scene continued, everyone in the room seemed to grow more fidgety and uncomfortable, some people openly expressing their dismay. The curtains suddenly close and without a curtain call or applause, the house lights go on and the audience is left sitting in shock over what they’ve just seen. Without divulging what happens or even who’s involved, it seems that this final scene wasn’t included as a continuance of the plot but rather as a way to stir up the audience, almost as if Bradshaw were looking to strike a controversy. I just wish Bradshaw could have found a way to do so without ruining the integrity of so many of his characters. After all, there’s no such thing as bad press for a show like “Mary”. Mary runs through March 6 at the Goodman’s Owen Theatre. Tickets are $10 – $42.