Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary?"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Carl A. Rossi


by Ryan Landry
directed by James P. Byrne

Joseph … Larry Coen
Mary … Ryan Landry
Nick Kringle … Chris Loftus
Honey Kringle … Scott Martino
Salvation … Olive Another

Ryan Landry and his Gold Dust Orphans have revived their holiday offering, WHO’S AFRAID OF THE VIRGIN MARY?, Mr. Landry’s clever send-up of a well-known American play, now set in the hovel of Joseph and Mary, complete with manger animals, down in the Holy Land. Joseph is a carpenter; his wife, Mary, miraculously gave birth to a son (not Joseph’s) over three decades ago yet is still virgo intacta. Mary is loud-mouthed, alcoholic and frustrated; she constantly berates Joseph for having neither guts nor ambition (she is God’s appointed daughter and feels she deserves better). Joseph endures Mary’s abuse though he gives as good as gets (he thrusts and parries where Mary bludgeons). And then there’s Mary’s son, Jesus, who is expected home for his birthday…. On this particular Christmas Eve, Joseph and Mary return from church where the hit of the evening was the song “Who’s Afraid of the Holy Ghost?”. Mary, already tanked, announces that a young couple, new to the area, is stopping by for a nightcap. Enter St. Nick and his wife Honey (daughter of Jack Frost), to all appearances the picture-perfect young couple; ah, but underneath…. This may all sound outrageous, but WHO’S AFRAID OF THE VIRGIN MARY? is no more shocking nor blasphemous than the famous Second Shepherds’ Play from the Middle Ages where the rogue Mak passes his wife and a sheep off as Mother and Child to rip off some shepherds and gets tossed in a blanket for his tricks or, going back even farther, any ancient Greek comedy that poked fun at the gods --- when Mary's father rumbles in the heavens, he could be Zeus himself, toying with a thunderbolt. Rest assured, there are plenty of lusty laughs in WHO’S AFRAID OF THE VIRGIN MARY?; Mr. Landry stays close to the original’s black humor, tweaking only when necessary; when the serious moments slip in (belonging primarily to Joseph), he and director James P. Byrne follow through without teetering into Camp.

Larry Coen continues to be Mr. Landry’s rock as Joseph to the latter’s manic Mary --- I would be curious to see them switch roles, though: Mr. Coen might make a marvelously subtle virago whereas Mr. Landry romps through Mary like a gleeful child having just learned some four-letter words, and I’ve never seen Mr. Landry take on a pants part; now the resident Orphan stud, Chris Loftus (Nick) needs to be challenged into tenderness and intimacy instead of continuing to pose and strut in hardened butch fashion. Olive Another repeats her memorable cameo as a chirpy-sweet Salvation Nell(y) who turns gravel-mouthed when crossed. Coiffed and garbed as if he escaped from a retro-50s Christmas card, Scott Martino is once again ditzy fun as a Honey seriously deficient in the brain department (pipe those muscle-gams!); his pausing in the middle of Honey’s dance to strike a pose right out of Vogue is inspired zaniness.

You know you want to go.

So, go.


"Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary?" (2 - 23 December)
Machine at The Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts, 1256 Boylston Street, Boston, MA
1 (617) 265-6222

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide