Pirandellian Drama MARY V to Play Theater for the New City This June
In "Mary V," a Pirandellian, feminist appropriation of Shakespeare's historical play, an all-female cast battles for control of a production of "Henry V," led by their king, an actress named Mary. The play explores ways in which actors' commitment can break down the relationship between illusion and reality and how the division between femininity and masculinity can yield destruction for both sexes.
Theater for the New City (TNC), 155 First Ave., presented the play last summer in its 2016 Dream Up Festival and will now present it for a full production June 1 to 18. Playwright Rebekah Carrow heads a cast of 16 as the upstart king; Charlotte Murray directs.
The play is set in a black box theater where a production of "Henry V" by a traditional male-dominated cast is about to begin rehearsal. That troupe is challenged by the sudden appearance of an all-female cast which is under the sway of a curiously charismatic woman named Mary, who plays the title character. The actresses at first importune and later command the actors to surrender their roles. Neither side is willing to give up their rights to perform the play as they wish, but they are both willing to fight for their version of the production--using Shakespeare's arms and Shakespeare's rules.
Mary and her sisters initially stand for their belief that a diversified rendition of the Shakespearean play is essential. However, it's a blood-soaked play; as violence between the casts threatens, Mary finds herself becoming more masculine and aggressive, the role of the king altering her being and sense of morality. The male characters find themselves falling into similar traps as their dedication to fending off the women leads them down a dark path.
An all-out 15th century battle between the two sides looms and Mary finds herself becoming more similar to her rival, Henry, sacrificing her feminine qualities for assured victory in the coming strife. So ardent is these actors' belief in their parts that they lose consciousness of imagination vs. reality and become inseparable from their characters. When swordplay finally breaks out, the actors playing Bedford, Katherine and Henry V are actually slain. Mary's troupe is triumphant, but at what cost? It is up to her to decide if she will let absolute power corrupt who she is. This moral question is at the core of the play and is inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical assertion that "whoever fights monster should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."
Shakespeare fanciers will be delighted to learn that King Mary adopts many of the speeeches the Bard gave to Henry, including "Once more unto the breach, dear friends" and "St. Crispin's Day." The play's second act is more or less imported directly from Shakspeare's version. Do you have to be very familiar with "Henry V" to enjoy the show? No, says author Rebekah Carrow, explaining that the piece is adapted to modern day circumstances and its conceptual framework eases the audience into its Shakespearean world.
Rebekah Carrow is a recent graduate of the Atlantic Acting Studio Evening Conservatory and has spent the past year writing and rewriting "Mary V." Carrow seeks to expand "femininity on the American stage" and is particularly interested in exploring themes of gender roles and feminism in her work. Her past acting credits include the roles of Mercutio in "Juliet & her Romeo," Nurse/Teacher in "B in Oblivion" and Gigi in "231." This is Carrow's first play.
Director Charlotte Murray is a graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts and Playwrights Horizons Theater School. She has assisted directors Ellie Heyman, Andrew Neisler, Erin Ortman, Annie Tippe, Kirstine Haruna Lee, and Andrew Scoville and has worked at Joe's Pub, Ars Nova, Peoples Improv Theater, Abrons Art Center, TNC, Sheen Center, BAX, and NYLA. She was associate director of the most recent run of Political Subversities.
The actors are Rebekah Carrow as Mary, Carter Gaylord as Henry, Lindsey White as Katherine, Liam Sweeney as Montjoy, Shannon Spangler as Exeter, Gabriel Rosario as Male Exeter, Mahima Saigal as Westmoreland, Ahkai Franklin as Male Westmoreland, Paige Espinosa as Bedford, Justin DeSilets as Male Bedford, Sarah Suzuki as Court, James Johnston as Male Court, Emily Oliveira as Pistol, Michael Barnette as Male Pistol, Sheree Campbell as Bardolph and Matthew Courson as Male Bardolph.
Lighting design is by Elizabeth Stewart. Sound design is by Sebastian Guttierez. Stage Manager is Emily Tang. Fight directors are Joe DiNozzi and Grace Clower. Assistant Director is Lizzie Kehoe.
Rebekah Carrow writes, "TNC is such an amazing place to grow as a playwright and actor. They embrace new work and provide a supportive atmosphere to try new things. I am so grateful to this theater and to Crystal for helping me bring 'Mary V' to the NYC theater community."
IF YOU GO:
June 1 to 18, 2017
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at East 10th Street)
Presented by Theater for the New City (Crystal Field, Artistic Director)
Tickets: $15.00. Box office (212) 254-1109; www.theaterforthenewcity.net
Running time: 110 min. Reviewers are invited on or after June 3.