note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Carl A. Rossi
Mary Claire Monaghan (Clare) … Lyralen Kaye
Mary Margaret Monaghan (Peggy) … Robin Rapoport
Mary Theresa Monaghan (Resa) … Lindsay Bellock
Mary Grace Monaghan (Mary Grace) … Danielle L. Didio
Mary Anne Monaghan (Annie) … Laura DeCesare
Maria Monaghan … June Murphy-Katz
Patrick Monaghan … Robert Runck
Lyralen Kaye’s THEY NAMED US MARY at Devanaughn Theatre contains what could be the most shattering moment onstage this season: Clare Monaghan, an attractive, intelligent woman, recovered alcoholic and victim of child abuse, being symbolically beaten and then crucified on her dead father’s body. It is a powerful, primal (even mythic) moment where tears sting your eyes --- at least that was my reaction; it was some time before I picked up my pen again to continue scribbling in the dark. Then there are Ms. Kaye’s words; endless words --- bitter, mocking, cruel, resigned, with fleeting notes of joy or tenderness --- pouring forth from Claire, her sisters Peggy, Resa, Grace and Anne (all of them, prefixed at birth with the name “Mary”) and their mother, Maria, who has turned a cold eye on many a family crisis. Patrick, husband and father, is in his coffin yet very much alive in these women’s memories and body echoes --- they still belong to him due to the various ways he loved or rejected them in life; only Clare, his firstborn, has escaped but has now returned to snatch away as many sisters as she can from Maria’s clutches. The town is Pittsburgh, the family is Irish-American, but abuse knows no time or boundaries. Ms. Kaye’s script is riddled with repetition and obvious stabs at satire (Patrick’s coffin doubles as bed and table; Maria is imagined as a dominatrix nun) but Clare’s crucifixion and those wounding words bring this battered vessel to harbor. THEY NAMED US MARY may be raw, unpolished stuff but it is a play Ms. Kaye had to write before flying on to future revelations --- art is like that.
Ms. Kaye herself plays Clare, having first done so in a one-woman version of the current work. Hers is a lovely presence, suffering simply and starkly, and she is surrounded by an equally passionate ensemble, nicely contrasted in their outbursts, especially June Murphy-Katz’s Maria who could leave you weeping had you grown up with a similar parent (the program lists a telephone help line for those who need to talk, afterwards). Since the play is episodic, the production grinds to a halt by the scene changes done by the performers themselves --- the ultra-realism of their performances is shattered by the ultra-realism of their setting up props and furniture. At the very least, stagehands should perform these duties and free up the actresses to prepare for the next bloody battle.