Spring Arts Guide: The Testament of Mary, Quite Contrary

Fiona Shaw and Colm Tóibin explore the inner life of Jesus's mom

Neither Shaw nor Tóibín could predict with any confidence how Broadway audiences will react to this piece. Tóibín noted that when the play debuted in Dublin, the theater provided ample exits for those who chose to walk out and discussed how to manage spectator protests. But no one left, and no one objected. "The theater was full every night," he said.

Shaw describes New York audiences as generous, but also quite demanding. "When we took Medea here, people laughed quicker, faster, sharper, and more viscerally than they did in London," she said. "It seems to me that there's a kind of intensity of expectation of audiences in America." Yet she does not know how spectators will react should the play challenge their particular religious beliefs.

In rehearsal, Shaw said, she focuses very little on broader questions of faith, truth, glory. "This story that we have here is a woman trying to get through a day," she said. "I get the feeling that she's probably someone whose great desire would be to be anonymous. That's the thing that history has ripped from her."

"The Testament of Mary," March 26–June 16, Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 West 48th Street, walterkerrtheatre.com

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