Off Broadway Reviews
While Hrotsvitha's original dramatic tale promoted chastity, reverence, and repentance through the story of an orphan led astray, Horwitz's modern version presents Mary (Haley Wong) as a precocious youngster in search of genuine affection after a period of forced isolation. After Mary's parents are claimed by a mysterious plague "turning people into foam," the monk Abraham (Susannah Perkins) and his fellow-hermit Ephraim (Octavia Chavez-Richmond) confine the eight-year-old orphan to a monastic cell-within-a-cell where Mary stays secluded and "betrothed to God." But Mary resists tragic circumstances, narrating transgressions and transcensions while outsmarting oppressors, always inviting the audience into a whimsical world of her own discovery.
Horwitz's semi-sentimental revision emphasizes simple sources of nourishment through an all-important recurring cereal spoon, and repurposes the pivotal anagnorisis of Hrotsvitha's short script–the turning point in which Mary finally recognizes family by scent–into a heavyhanded yet heartwarming motif to remind us all of our universal desire for true love and security.
Within the delightful, diverse cast of women and nonbinary performers, Perkins and Chavez-Richmond deliver humorous exaggerations of Abraham and Ephraim while Wong emotes an ever-ebullient Mary. Kai Heath crafts a captivating Soldier and Claire Siebers shapeshifts through the rest of the roles: a gravedigger, Dominic, Master of the Inn, plus 12 different lovers.
Directed with swift pacing and a slapstick flair by the playwright's graduate school colleague and friend Josiah Davis, actors swim through infinite layers of curtains that part, ascend, descend, and configure into distinct chambers as needed. You-Shin Chen's scenic design finds focused acting areas to fit this small show to MCC's Frankel Theatre, carved out by Cha See's sharp lighting design. Costumes by Camilla Dely feature chainmail coif, tonsures, and cleverly climax into a wearable summary of Mary's plight, replete with spoons signifying a signature prop, echoed by Gabby Goldman's smart properties design.
The early-career cast and creators of this Playwrights Realm production all seem so well-acquainted that inside jokes appear to abound throughout. Shrewd audience members may spot odd details like the old New York "Toots Shor" drinking glass among consumerist carnal delights beyond the monastery, but, unfortunately, other bits and gags may seem overacted or obscure. Alas, the buzzing troupe "putting on a play" may prove more amused tonight than its audience.
Mary Gets Hers