BWW Review: Amy Herzog's MARY JANE Subtly Criticizes The Complexity of Obtaining Health Care

To say that there are no dramatic highs and lows in Amy Herzog's touching new drama, Mary Jane, is by no means a criticism. It's more of a recognition of the beautifully understated naturalism in both the playwright's text and in director Anne Kauffman's production.

BWW Review:   Amy Herzog's MARY JANE Subtly Criticizes The Complexity of Obtaining Health Care
LIZA COLÓN-ZAYAS and Carrie Coon
(Photo: Joan Marcus)

The point being that when you're the single mother of a two-year-old with cerebral palsy who requires 24-hour care, the expectation of sudden tragedy is just as everyday as the play's central character's name.

The child is Alex, who the audience never sees except for his form covered in blankets and his mother, Mary Jane, played with even-handed composure by Carrie Coon, spends every moment of her life contributing in some way or another to his care.

Advice from her super (Brenda Wehle) and her visiting nurse (LIZA COLÓN-ZAYAS) is appreciated, but experience has made Mary Jane the expert on what Alex Needs and how to get it.

Now if only she can hang onto her job in order to keep her health insurance, but what can her employer do when she's used up her yearly allotment of sick and vacation days by July and still needs more time off?

BWW Review:   Amy Herzog's MARY JANE Subtly Criticizes The Complexity of Obtaining Health Care
Carrie Coon and Susan Pourfar
(Photo: Joan Marcus)

Alex's latest long-term hospital stay sets up interesting encounters with a Buddhist monk offering comfort (Wehle) and a Hasidic Jewish mother raising seven children (Susan Pourfar), one of whom is also chronically ill, but Mary Jane's solid wall of emotional defense starts showing signs of deterioration over the difficulty in simply arranging a visit from a music therapist (Danaya Esperanza) to play a few songs for the suffering child.

There's a good deal of realistic humor in Mary Jane, played as a natural to an impossible situation, but, while never directly stated, the play's focus is a damnation of a nation's system of health care that best serves those who can take it upon themselves to become experts in navigating through its policies.

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