BWW Review: PASS MY IMPERFECTIONS LIGHTLY BY - Patty Stephens' Virtuoso Turn As Mary Todd Lincoln

BWW Review: PASS MY IMPERFECTIONS LIGHTLY BY - Patty Stephens' Virtuoso Turn As Mary Todd Lincoln

Patty Stephens has returned to Don Bluth Front Row Theatre for an all too brief (October 4th-6th) encore as Mary Todd Lincoln in Vaughn McBride's PASS MY IMPERFECTIONS LIGHTLY BY. Clad in Victorian style mourning dress, she delivers a virtuoso performance, embodying the complexity of emotions of one of the most controversial First Ladies in American history.

As Lincoln recounts remembrances of her path to the Capitol ~ her proper Kentucky upbringing, the move to Springfield Illinois and unlikely (he was tall and lanky and she was not) courtship with a future President, and then residence in a deteriorated White House that she would proceed, without regard for expense, to upgrade) ~ Ms. Stephens' face and gestures are a legible and empathy-inducing roadmap to the joys and pains of a complex and formidable woman. Ms. Stephens accomplishes this feat of authenticity with charm and aplomb, and it is something special to behold.

Mary's biography comes in waves that carry with them swells of emotion. She celebrates her rise to singularity and her predilection for controversy with enthusiasm. As she notes wryly, if Abraham Lincoln was the "subject," she was his "adjective," a fierce proponent of his cause. When she suffers the loss of her children or the indignity of her surviving son's claims after the assassination that she was insane, she does so stoically and with a wink to justifiable resentment.

Again, Stephens is brilliant and persuasive in her ability to shift seamlessly between moods, every moment of her performance a riveting one. Her recitation of the fateful night at Ford Theatre cannot but help to leave an indelible impression of grief and horror in an audience's mind.

In the end, Ms. Stephens has delivered an indelible portrait of an indomitable woman, an attribute surprisingly at odds with the play's title. Mrs. Lincoln was an avid letter-writer, prone, as one of her biographers, Jean Harvey Baker notes, to "girlish apologies for some deficiency of form or syntax," conveying "her sense of inadequacy with the repeated expression, pass my imperfections lightly by."

No deficiencies or inadequacy in this remarkable performance by a sterling actress.

Poster credit to Don Bluth Front Row Theatre

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From This Author Herbert Paine

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