BWW Review: Tracy Letts' MARY PAGE MARLOWE Offers Random Moments That Add Up To A Life
"If life were only moments, then you'd never know you had one," sings a character from Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's INTO THE WOODS while pondering whether the intimate encounter she just experienced would turn out to be of lifelong meaning or just a barely significant distraction.
So, in Tracy Letts' interesting new drama, Mary Page Marlowe, it's up to audience members to ponder over which of the eleven moments in the title character's life presented before them had a great impact, and which were merely throwaways.
One would think that the play's opening scene, where a frustrated 40-year-old Mary Page (Susan Pourfar) tries explaining the complicated post-divorce living arrangements set up for her teenage daughter (Kayli Carter) and 12-year-old son (Ryan Foust), would be a big one.
"No, Mom, God, don't make me finish high school in Kentucky," Wendy pleads when Mary Page explains how her new job is in Louisville, and the kids will have to leave their father's home in Dayton to live with her. "I don't want to spend my last two years in high school with a bunch of hillbillies!"
Perhaps it was just a blip on the radar screen the afternoon 27-year-old Mary Page (Tatiana Maslany) scurried to get dressed and leave a hotel room as the man she just had sex with (Gary Wilmes) tried engaging her in some personal conversation.
Does the 63-year-old Mary Page (always invaluable Blair Brown), who receives life-changing news from her husband (Brian Kerwin), have any recollection of the time her mother (Grace Gummer) was less than supportive when, at age 12 (Mia Sinclair Jenness), she sang for her the solo she was going to perform at the next day's school assembly?
The title character is also played by Emma Geer, Kellie Overbey and a prop infant as the scenes leap back and forth through time, never repeating an age. It's best to stay alert for information in each scene that can fill out your understanding of what was happening in a previous scene.
Though fitting the pieces of the puzzle together can be fun, the lack of any kind of through-line makes the experience more clinical than emotional. Under Lila Neugebauer's direction, the play is very well-acted and the choice to not have any connecting mannerisms among the six actors playing the title role seems to bring home the point that people can evolve into drastically new versions of themselves.
Only three members of the cast of 18 play multiple roles, with most characters appearing for just one scene. Such extravagant, and costly casting is rarely seen in new non-musicals these days on New York stages. Perhaps the sizable number of good parts will make Mary Page Marlowe a popular choice among amateur groups once it becomes available. Certainly its eleven independently standing scenes for characters of various ages will be performed in acting classes for quite some time.