MvVO Art Launches AD ART SHOW
Off Broadway

He Says: Second Stage’s Six Shades of Mary Page Marlowe

He Says: Second Stage’s Six Shades of Mary Page Marlowe

There are six definitive and definitely talented actresses playing Tracy Letts’ title character, Mary Page Marlowe. Seven if you want to include the baby doll that cries softly trying to seek and receive comfort in the arms of her distracted father, handsomely and clearly played by Nick Dillenburg (Off-Broadway’s Teenage Dick). (Interesting footnote: when Mary Page Marlowe premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in April 2016, the infant Mary was played by three actual babies, but was switched to a doll after audience members complained they were too distracted and nervous by the real life infant.) Luckily and typically, I had no idea going in to the Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theater that the non-sequenced play was structured in such a manner, finding myself happily struggling to find my footing after the first of eleven scenes concluded. The opening, starring Susan Pourfar (NYTW’s Mary Jane) as Mary Page Marlowe (MPM, 40 & 44) delicately, and most authentically shows a mother breaking the news of divorce to her two children, played most compellingly by Kayli Carter (West End/St Ann’s Nice Fish) and Ryan Foust (Broadway’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). After that, we are, click by click, thrown around like a time traveling hot-potato from a scene of personal impact and importance to another, decades apart and each one starring a strongly constructed Mary Page Marlowe. This woman is masterfully assisted by a string of connected characters, each and everyone playing a role in molding and sewing together the quilt that will become the finished product at the sweet and stable age of sixty-nine.  Mary Page’s mother, played steely but the phenomenally talented Grace Gummer (Broadway’s Arcadia) adds a strong unique layer of hardness to the young twelve year-old MPM, played by the sweet Mia Sinclair Jenness (Broadway’s Matilda) laying the ground work, almost too casually, of what kind of woman this Mary will become.  “This is not a tragedy” Pourfar’s MPM says to her children so many years later, much like the words she probably needs to tell her numerous younger (and older) selves. We hopscotch our way, back and forth, over almost seventy years, comforting her lost and confused soul with the discrepancy of what should have or could have been with what it actually became. But much like MPM’s life, the end result is neither totally satifying, nor is it disappointing, as the cards can’t predict fulfillment, success or failure, just pathways forward.

MARY PAGE MARLOWE By TRACY LETTS Directed by LILA NEUGEBAUER With DAVID AARON BAKER, BLAIR BROWN, KAYLI CARTER, AUDREY CORSA, MARCIA DeBONIS, NICK DILLENBURG, RYAN FOUST, TESS FRAZER, EMMA GEER, GRACE GUMMER, MIA SINCLAIR JENNESS, BRIAN KERWIN, TATIANA

As the clever tarot cards are dealt to a young nineteen year old Mary Page, portrayed precisely by the glorious Emma Geer (Mint’s Hindle Wakes), they strongly suggest an unknown and thrilling future already laid out for her in one of the more intoxicating moments of this 90 minute play. The Queen of Cups is overflowing with hope, dreams, and possibilities, but as always, there is another, more abstract vision, the death card, suggesting opposing forces of prophesied destiny, both good and bad. This young Mary Page Marlowe,  finds comfort from the unknowingness that lays ahead, cozied up together with her best friends during a teenage sleep-over. They are played by the wonderfully engaging pair of actresses, Audrey Corsa (Arin Arbus’ Twelfth Night) and Tess Frazer (This Property is Condemned), solidifying a scenario where ideas of “I don’t want to marry” and the subsequent three marriages that we become privy to, with the last husband, and the favored one, Andy, played beautifully by the sweet Brain Kerwin (Broadway’s August: Osage County), suggest a stitching of a different thread.  Costumed to period perfection by Kaye Voyce (Signature’s At Home at the Zoo), these different clad Mary Pages remind us how our youthful desires vanish, restructuring into a series of surprising attachments that are impossible to foresee staring out at us from those tarot cards dealt.

MARY PAGE MARLOWE By TRACY LETTS Directed by LILA NEUGEBAUER With DAVID AARON BAKER, BLAIR BROWN, KAYLI CARTER, AUDREY CORSA, MARCIA DeBONIS, NICK DILLENBURG, RYAN FOUST, TESS FRAZER, EMMA GEER, GRACE GUMMER, MIA SINCLAIR JENNESS, BRIAN KERWIN, TATIANA

Those cards try to tell us about a life played out in scenes of engagement, with pieces of the puzzle adding and fitting together in ways that might be pre-ordained or just plain random and reactionary. It all depends on how you want to see it. One of the most powerful being the tightly controlled Kellie Overbey (Broadway’s The Coast of Utopia) as MPM, 50, losing her composure after her third D.U.I., screaming “Don’t tell me how I feel!” over and over again at her dumbfounded and frightened husband #2, Ray, played just as compellingly by David Aaron Baker (2ST’s Oblivion Postponed).  It shows a level of disconnect in her connection and the fear that lives inside the constantly escaping Mary Page. It is most effectively portrayed at age twenty-seven and thirty-six by the most excellent player of parts, Titiana Maslany (‘Orphan Black‘) finding humor and play in her two scenes of hiding and interaction; one with her therapist, played disconcertingly by Marcia DeBonis (Small Mouth Sounds), and the other with her needy and power-playing boss/lover, Dan, played effectively by Gary Wilmes (Broadway’s Chinglish). Both display equal levels of desperation for something that might save their independent souls, filling out the form of Mary Page Marlowe with embroidered detail and denial.

MARY PAGE MARLOWE By TRACY LETTS Directed by LILA NEUGEBAUER With DAVID AARON BAKER, BLAIR BROWN, KAYLI CARTER, AUDREY CORSA, MARCIA DeBONIS, NICK DILLENBURG, RYAN FOUST, TESS FRAZER, EMMA GEER, GRACE GUMMER, MIA SINCLAIR JENNESS, BRIAN KERWIN, TATIANA

The craftwork is clean and precise, with set pieces designed simply but cooly by Laura Jellinek (Signature’s Everybody) sliding in and out. The Mary Pages, each find moments of quiet engagement between the different stages, pinpointed in the light provided by designer Tyler Micoleau (TNG’s Peace For Mary Frances), sound design by Brandon Wolcott (PH’s Dance Nation), and original music composed by Bray Poor (Public’s Office Hour), before separating back into their periods of development.  The always excellent Blair Brown (Broadway’s The Parisian Woman) portrays that woman, aged sixty-nine sitting and talking with a well crafted nurse, played effectively by the talented Maria Elena Ramirez (Broadway’s Fish in the Dark) as she comes closer and closer to the end of her life, but she also brings her earth-born strength and solidness to Mary Page at fifty-nine and sixty-three.  It’s a patchwork piece, this relatively new play by the Pulitzer Prize winning Tracy Letts (2ST’s Man From Nebraska) and as directed with an achingly delicate sense of quietness by the wonderful Lila Neugebauer (PR’s The Wolves, LCT’s After the Blast), the separate square pieces of engagements with this very big cast and its central figure comes together like a finely crafted memory quilt created to hold all the ideas and ideals of Mary’s extended family’s life.  It’s stained by experience and tears, worn by repetitive despair and contentment, and forgotten in a chest, but the life that is sewn holds sentiment only when studied and needed.  The last moment, an oddly scripted interaction with a handsome Elliot Villar (Broadway’s War Horse) feels a bit too tidy. Taking a metaphor and forcing it strongly forward. Abstractly unfulfilling, the last thread tries its best to pull it all together into one image of a woman gazing off into her future. That moment doesn’t congeal as well as planned, but the quilted final product is  comforting in its state of survival and acceptance, not electric, but warm in it’s simplicity. Cause “if you’re going to be mean, it’s good to be accurate“.

MARY PAGE MARLOWE By TRACY LETTS Directed by LILA NEUGEBAUER With DAVID AARON BAKER, BLAIR BROWN, KAYLI CARTER, AUDREY CORSA, MARCIA DeBONIS, NICK DILLENBURG, RYAN FOUST, TESS FRAZER, EMMA GEER, GRACE GUMMER, MIA SINCLAIR JENNESS, BRIAN KERWIN, TATIANAFor more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

More in Off Broadway

Aasif Mandvi

Sakina’s Restaurant Where Aasif Mandvi Embraces His Journey

Suzanna BowlingOctober 18, 2018

He Says: Keen Company’s Quirky Ordinary Days Charms Musically

RossOctober 18, 2018

Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days a Show That Should Not Be Missed

Suzanna BowlingOctober 16, 2018
Jason O'Connell

Jason O’Connell an Actor on the Rise and the Reason To See Happy Birthday, Wanda June 

Suzanna BowlingOctober 16, 2018
Closer than Ever, Kevin David Thomas, Chad Austin, Justin Sargent , Nicholas Belton, Bonnie Milligan, Conor Ryan

Conor Ryan singing “What Am I Doin’?” for The Abingdon Theatre Company Gala Production of Closer Than Ever

Suzanna BowlingOctober 16, 2018

Pop Punk High Tries to Rock Hard at (le) Poisson Rouge

RossOctober 16, 2018
Desperate Measures

Desperate Measures To Giddy-Up Into The New York Sunset October 28th

Suzanna BowlingOctober 15, 2018
Kaitlin Paige Longoria, Hallie Griffin, MaryKathryn Kopp

Hitler’s Tasters Combines Selfies of Today with Brutal History

Suzanna BowlingOctober 15, 2018
Zonya Love, Matt Servitto, Ilana Becker

Todd Solondz’s Kids, Emma and Max Get a New Nanny from The Flea

RossOctober 15, 2018