Theatre Mirror Reviews - "They Named Us Mary"

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note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Carl A. Rossi


by Lyralen Kaye
directed by Holly Newman

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.

"They Named Us Mary" (19-28 February)
Devanaughn Theatre, The Piano Factory, 791 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 939-4846

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide