Picketing The New Repertory Theatre for its production of THE TESTAMENT OF MARY (playing through Feb. 28th)? Why in heavens’ name? Because it blasphemes? First of all, it doesn’t. Playwright Colm Toibin paints Mary as a mother….who, like any other mother, would rather not see her son crucified. In director Jim Petosa’s take on the (one woman) play, Mary is already defeated. She tells us she thinks she’s being watched: “They” want the story to have a particular slant but her “memory is a jumble of confusion.” She feels guilt and she feels resentment because her son was “used” by those who wanted change. She struggles under the burden of a mother’s grief but she doesn’t rail against God or the Church or the movement.
Secondly, the New Rep version never reaches fever pitch. You’d be hard pressed to find anything stronger than a mother’s lament that it wasn’t worth the pain. Paula Langton plays her as the frailest of creatures with barely the strength to go on. Langton shows us her profound suffering with one gesture, not with words. She wishes, she says, with all her heart that she could have held him after they took him down from the cross. Then she outstretches her empty arms, lingers in the pose and we see Michelangelo’s Pieta. We’re moved by that gesture alone to feel the sacrifice. Isn’t that what religion is about? Making us feel? And by the by, since the gospels were written eighty years after the fact, when witnesses and disciples were long gone, who’s to say whose version is sacrosanct!
As for picketing, I remember Christopher Durang’s wonderfully outrageous farce, SISTER MARY IGNATIUS EXPLAINS IT ALL FOR YOU, which was the first in a long line of “nun” send ups (which no one thinks a second thought about now). They picketed in New York. They picketed in Boston. I saw both productions. As I recall, the picketers did not know it was satire. I presume The Catholic Church understands satire now, as various incarnations of NUNSENSE play their church basements. And not a peep was uttered when Tir Na mounted THE RETURN OF THE WINEMAKER (Yes, that winemaker.) a few months ago.
There are lots of injustices in the world to protest about. This molehill is no mountain by any stretch of the imagination.