The Testament of Mary: Fiona Shaw takes on an angry, grieving Mary

It felt fitting to watch the new Broadway production of Colm Tóibín’s Testament of Mary during Holy Week recently. Unfortunately I was rather disappointed in the show. I’m also a bit conflicted about this review since it was a preview performance and, technically, they’re meant to be critic-free. But then, I’m not a paid, professional critic, so, keeping in mind that the show may change by the time it officially opens, here goes:

As I said in my earlier post about Tóibín’s book, I was very excited to see Fiona Shaw in this production, directed by her frequent collaborator Deborah Warner. Surprisingly, my chief impression of the show was that Shaw was forcing many emotional notes. I feel like she was hampered by the lack of a cohesive physical activity onstage – an activity that, as any grad student in acting can tell you, would free her up emotionally. When I read the book, I often had an image of Mary cleaning her little house or fixing a meal for herself as she speaks to the reader. Onstage, Mary has fits and starts of fragmented activity – moving chairs around, filling water in a jug, cleaning a fish – but it’s sporadic and disjointed. It’s possible that the disjointedness is a deliberate choice, a manifestation of Mary’s traumatized, fractured emotional state, but that point doesn’t come across clearly. Many of the objects that Mary handles onstage represent emblems of Christ’s Passion – a hammer and nails, coils of wire suggesting the crown of thorns, a ladder evoking the cross. For a moment I thought perhaps Mary would eventually pull them all together in a unified way, but that didn’t really materialize either.

Despite the production’s shortcomings, the power of Tóibín’s text still shines through. Shaw is particularly effective in capturing Mary’s pain at Jesus’ apparently dismissive attitude towards her at the wedding in Cana: “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” Shaw also communicates Mary’s melancholy wonder at barely recognizing the child she raised in the rather imperious man standing before her: “If someone had told me that this is not my son, I would have believed them.” The strongest section of the play centers on the crucifixion, the event which Mary, and the text itself, circle around warily. It’s never absent from the edges of her memory, though, and she finally confronts it directly. Her description is harrowing, forcing us to confront the unmitigated horror of crucifixion without the softening, beatific effects of faith and religious tradition.

As a sort of prologue, the production presents us with a familiar, traditional version of Mary – Shaw sits in a clear box on stage like a museum exhibit – draped in blue, eyes raised heavenward, a symbol of obedient faith and an object for veneration. The play then proceeds to metaphorically shatter that box and disrupt our traditional ideas about Mary. It offers us instead an angry, grieving, very human woman. I only wish the production allowed Shaw to fully locate the devastating emotional truth that Tóibín’s text offers its readers.

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Weekly recaps: The Good Wife and Justified

Hi folks! Get ready for tonight’s The Good Wife and Tuesday’s season finale of Justified by catching up with my recaps of last week’s episodes:

The Good Wife, ep. 18: Death of a Client

Justified, ep. 12: Peace of Mind

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The Good Wife, ep. 17: Invitation to an Inquest

Hi all, here’s my recap of this week’s episode of The Good Wife:

The Good Wife, ep. 17: Invitation to an Inquest

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Justified, ep. 11: People underestimate Bob at their peril

Hey folks, check out my recap of this week’s eminently re-watchable episode of Justified on the Charter Cable Deals blog. My favorite line of the night: “He’s the man who killed Yoo-Hoo.” – Raylan, referring to Constable Bob, who saved the day yet again.

Justified, ep. 11: Decoy

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Justified, ep. 10: Get Drew

Things are kicking into high gear on Justified, so be sure to tune in for tonight’s episode about the showdown in Harlan County between the Marshals and Theo Tonin’s forces. Get prepped by checking out my recap of last week’s episode:

Justified, episode 10: Get Drew


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The Good Wife, ep. 16: Runnin’ with the Devil

Hi folks! Check out my recap of last week’s episode of The Good Wife on the Comcast Offers blog:

Episode 16: Runnin’ with the Devil


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Justified, ep. 9: Hatchet Tour

Hi folks! Check out my recap of last week’s episode of Justified on the Charter Cable Deals blog:

Justified, ep. 9: Hatchet Tour


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The Good Wife, ep. 15: Going for the Gold

Hello folks! Check out my recap of this week’s episode of The Good Wife on the Comcast Offers blog:

The Good Wife, ep. 15: Going for the Gold


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Jon Stewart takes time off from The Daily Show

I had a moment of panic when I read the headline on Entertainment Weekly’s website, but it’s okay; just breathe. Jon is not leaving the show; apparently he’s going to take the summer off to direct a film based on a book by BBC journalist Maziar Bahari, who has been a guest on The Daily Show. See EW’s story here:

It was clear on the program that Jon had a strong reaction to Bahari’s experiences as a human rights activist, including his captivity in Iran, so his decision to collaborate with Bahari on the film makes sense to me. I’m also very happy that John Oliver is filling in for Jon. On the rare occasions when I’ve contemplated the unthinkable, I have imagined that John would be a good replacement for my fellow William & Mary alum. Here’s hoping the venture is a success for Jon and John!

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Justified, ep. 8: “Outlaw”

Hey y’all, check out my recap of this week’s episode of Justified:

Justified, ep. 8: Outlaw

Enjoy, and happy weekend!

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