At the end of Thomas Bradshaw’s Mary, you’re not quite sure if you should clap or slip quietly out the doors. It seems inappropriate — and perhaps supportive of a belief that goes against everything you hold near and dear — to force applause following a chilling final speech. Also: there’s no curtain call. So an uncertain smattering of hand clapping will suffice.
But that’s not to say Bradshaw’s work isn’t completely fascinating and worthy of a hearty hand.
Ok, look. Those that have seen this play have walked away with really mixed feelings. It’s not the kind of play that neatly fits. It confronts hot-button issues of racism and homophobia in a way that spurs nervous laughter and seat shifting. It’s a little campy and a little crude and a lot uncomfortable. Also bitterly funny. And in the end, that final speech feels like a face slap.
Such sudden shifts in tone could be the sign of lazy playwrighting. But I feel Bradshaw knows exactly what he’s doing. He keeps us off balance, forcing us to change our fully-formed opinions about a character or situation on a dime. Life isn’t neat, and people change — and not necessarily for the better.
(If you’ve noticed, I’m being very vague about the plot points because I think it helps to go into it completely cold, like I did tonight.)
However, the thing that fascinated me most about this frustrating play is that all the characters share a common trait: As unpopular as their beliefs are, they’re all formed out of love. As hateful as it may be to hear someone say the N word or remark that homosexuals should be shot, there is zero hate in this play. Nope: believe it or not, love is the engine that drives all here. Severely misdirected love, but love nonetheless.
Which leads to the question: is love just as powerfully dangerous as hate?
You bet it is.
Don’t listen to what others are saying: see this 84 minute play and form your own opinions. I promise you won’t be bored.
CTA Index Rating: 8 out of 10 (A provocative play that is definitely NOT a people pleaser.)
“Mary” plays through March 6 in the Goodman’s Owen Theatre. More info here >