Frequently, reviews can be cold and unemotional. After seeing Fiona Shaw in The Testament of Mary, I realized that a regular review wouldn't suffice. So here is my response to this show, an open letter to Ms. Fiona Shaw.
Dear Ms. Shaw,
Normally when I write a review, it is a straight-up impartial review of the facts as I see them. After seeing your performance in The Testament of Mary, I found myself rapt in thought as to how I would convey my experience using my usual method. It was such an intimate, personal experience that I felt my “review” needed to reflect that. A review just didn’t feel in order. The only way to respond to something that personal was through a note to say thank you for one of the most moving and enthralling theatrical experiences I have had in more than 30 years.
Your performance as Mary, the mother of “Him,” was such an intimate personal conversation between you and me. I normally am not a fan of one-person plays; they are usually self-conscious and awkward. Playwright Colm Toíbín’s emotionally honest creation of Mary as a wounded, grieving and angry mother has given you much to work with. You took it, personalized it, owned it, and embodied it. I have never been so unconscious of the fact that I was watching a solo performance. I could not take my eyes off of you. I have to imagine that it was the same way for the rest of the audience as it was the most intensely quiet audience I can recall hearing at any recent play.
Your director, Deborah Warner's idea to show you as the beatific Virgin Mary, surrounded by candles, enshrined in a Plexiglas box from the moment the house opens through the start of the play, was an ingenious way to create a contrast between the Mary most people think they know and the Mary with whom we get to spend the next 90 minutes. I understand why your relationship with Ms. Warner has latest 25 years. She has obviously been a partner in creating this rich theatrical experience. The blocking of the show using a stage full of seemingly ordinary (yet symbolic) items and a working water spigot is 100% organic. She has not allowed you to make one false move.
Frankly, if I had my way Ms. Shaw, you would not be able to end your run until every acting student in New York City had had the opportunity to watch and study your portrayal of Mary. It was with great disappoint this morning that I rose to watch the Tony Award nominations for this year, and your performance, in the immortal words of a famous Tony Award winner, was “egregiously overlooked.” So let me say it, thank you for adding brilliance to our theatrical season; your performance has left an indelible mark that shan’t be forgotten. I have also just received word that your production will close early, on May 5th. I'm so very sorry, I truly am, particularly for those who will not be able to experience this unrivaled performance.