Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mary Page Marlowe

Six women play Mary Page Marlowe, the titular protagonist of Tracy Letts's 90-minute one act at Second Stage Theater. I imagine that developing the show was a fascinating experience for the actors, who went to each others' rehearsals and developed the character together. (They discuss their process in an interview in the New York Times.) The experience must have been particularly amazing for Tatiana Maslany, who has gone from playing some dozen women in Orphan Black to playing one sixth of a woman here. Unfortunately, the process doesn't translate into anything wonderful or distinct for the audience. In fact, under the damped-down direction of Lila Neugebauer, the entire show comes across as monotone. It's as though she thought that the only way to get six women to meld was to eliminate their personalities and individual quirks. (The set is monotone as well, and a bit off-putting.)

Marcia DeBonis, Tatiana Maslany
Photo: Joan Marcus

In addition to the unique casting, Mary Page Marlowe is steadfastly non-chronological. Breaking chronology can be an excellent device if the thru line of the play has its own growth and development. But Mary Page Marlowe doesn't. Instead, the mixing up of time periods seems only a way to add spice and suspense to a garden-variety story.

The combination of multi-casting, monotone, and non-chronology keeps the audience at arm's length. It doesn't help that sometimes we see only a performer's profile for an entire scene. Was Maslany good in the therapy scene? I don't know. I never saw her face.

Mary Page Marlowe feels like a terribly missed opportunity. It hurts to see such a large and wonderful cast (18 people in a one-act play!) given so little to do.

Wendy Caster
(tdf ticket; row L)
Show-Score: 50

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