In today’s Wall Street Journal I review the world premiere in New Haven of Amy Herzog’s Mary Jane. Here’s an excerpt.
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Plays whose subjects can be summed up in one word—abortion, divorce, Trump—are prone to be preachy. They needn’t be, though, and Amy Herzog’s “Mary Jane,” a play about caregiving, steers clear of every potentially fatal trap that lies in wait for an issue-driven playwright. Not only is it devoid of sermonizing, but Ms. Herzog has taken a topic that lends itself to six-hanky sentimentality and written about it in a plain-spoken, unmanipulative way. The result, exceptionally well directed by Anne Kauffman, is the best new play so far this year, one that will surely make a stir when it transfers from the Yale Repertory Theatre to the New York Theatre Workshop this fall.
The first act of “Mary Jane” takes place in the shabby little Queens apartment that the title character (Emily Donohoe), a preternaturally good-humored working woman and single mother, shares with Alex, her two-and-a-half-year-old child, who suffers from cerebral palsy. We never see Alex, who sleeps in the next room and cannot speak (he has a paralyzed vocal chord). Instead, we watch Mary Jane interact with a varied group of other women—a doctor, a nurse, the superintendent of her building, a Buddhist nun whom she meets in the hospital—who help her carry her cruel load….
Nothing much happens in “Mary Jane,” which is part conversation piece and part character study. Yet Ms. Herzog tells her tale so skillfully that it is as tense and enthralling as a mystery, while Ms. Donahoe is completely convincing in a role that in less accomplished hands could quite easily seem too good to be true, that of an ordinary woman who copes with a brutally stressful situation in a manner for which the only possible word is heroic….
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Read the whole thing here.
The cast of Mary Jane talks about the play: