This Is Mary Brown
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This Is Mary Brown: Theater review by Raven Snook
Alcoholic parents have long provided creative fodder for dramatists, but writer-performer Winsome Brown has no depressive O'Neill aspirations. True to her name, the Obie-award-winning actress presents a fairly rosy portrait of her mother, Mary, a stubborn, chain-smoking, booze-loving Irish matriarch who was always a hoot—even when not properly supervising the children she clearly adored. A versatile performer on a near-empty stage, Brown inhabits more than a dozen characters, including her mum, her Alaskan frontiersman dad, Toronto-bred siblings and herself, shifting adeptly among them with slight but effective tweaks in voice and stance. There's never any confusion over who's talking; the only nagging question is, what's the point?
After opening at Mary's grave, the rudderless script presents a nonlinear grab bag of seemingly unconnected scenes as mom gossips on the phone, sings to her family, and refuses to face or treat her addictions. Reportedly, Brown was encouraged to write this solo show by friend and director Brad Rouse, who enjoyed hearing her mom tales, but while they might amuse in social settings, they seem weightless onstage. That changes in the final, powerful 15 minutes as Mary's family gathers by her hospital bed to say goodbye. As she lays dying, she emerges as a full-fledged woman whose simple life touched so many. In those moments, This Is Mary Brown blossoms into a fitting tribute to the title mom, and all the flawed mothers who still toil away uncelebrated.—Raven Snook
La MaMa E.T.C. (Off-Off Broadway). Written and performed by Winsome Brown. Directed by Brad Rouse. Running time: 1hr 15mins. No intermission.