The Mary Trilogy
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
May 16, 2008
The Mary Trilogy brings together three short plays, two based on Greek myths and another on a murder ballad, that compliment each other very well. The first, Heart of the Dark Deep, is a riff on the Minotaur myth. This piece is intended to be dream-like and fragmented and that comes across very clearly, however, what it has to do with the Minotaur myth is not so clear. I liked the world of this play. It is very dark, bizarre, and funny at times. Video images of the subways are projected behind the main character, Marie, as she leads us through the dark tunnels of her subconscious mind.
The second play, La Madia Cycle, is a "mini-musical" based on the story of Medea and Jason with an added twist. The play blends Medea with the story of Andrea Yates, the Texas woman who drowned all five of her children and then calmly called the cops on herself. The comparison here is brilliant. The action of in this one is slow, tense, and horrifying, but the tragedy of the events is lost due to abstractions. Some of the dialogue lost me a little and by the end, I felt that the story in general was underdeveloped. I didn't see into the mind of the killer and I think that's what is intended.
The final installment, Like Meat Love Salt, is based on the Appalachian murder ballad "Pretty Polly." There is a lot to this story. Polly (or Penny in this version) appears to be a girl but she has a little surprise in her pants. Her cousin is mentally retarded (but I didn't get that, I thought she was crippled and maybe very young) and she seems to be pretty good with a hatchet. They seem to have something going on beyond cousinly love, but then two evil young men with bad intentions come along. Obviously there's a murder, it is based on a murder ballad, but the murder scene is downplayed, as is tension in other scenes. I liked the story of the play, it's interesting, some unexpected events occur and the dialogue is the clearest of all three plays.
The approach of playwright Adrienne Dawes is bizarre and often abstract. I enjoyed her fragmented storytelling and her poetic language but there are a few gaps in these stories that were bit too much for me to bridge. The last play has the most fluid story but Dawes keeps it short and doesn't develop her characters enough for me to get to know or care about them. While these shows certainly go well together, I think the show may work better if Dawes were to choose one play to expand and develop. Director Julianne Just creates some pretty stage pictures and overall I think the show has a great look. The staging, mixed with Elizabeth Nielson's lights, is quite beautiful. The videos (Alden Ford) projected on a sheet hung upstage add a lot to this look. I also enjoyed Bronwen Mullin's original songs performed a cappella by the cast.
The ensemble is a talented bunch. Lindsay Strachan is funny and alluring in her role as the nurse in the first play. Deborah Anderson delves deep into the main character of that play and pulls out some compelling emotions. Carissa Cordes plays the cold hand of death very well as La Madia, the killer mother. Genevieve Gearhart is most memorable as Penny. She balances her strengths and weaknesses very well and that drew me into her character.
I enjoyed the idea and the performance of this show but I didn't get everything I saw. In fact, much of the information I give you above I didn't glean from the show. I had to read about it in the program. Perhaps this should be a sign to the producers that their storytelling could use some clarification.