Sunday, May 13, 2007

Crazy Mary

The title character in A.R. Gurney's new play is the (somewhat disputed) scion of a formerly wealthy Buffalo family who has been interned in a tony sanatorium for the rich since the early 1970s. No one from the family has visited her in years, and she rarely speaks; she prefers to spend her days listening to classical music and opera on the radio in her room. Her solitude ends when her last living relative--a distant cousin who recently became her legal guardian--pops onto the scene to investigate the mysterious life that Mary has led since being committed. I had worried that in the hands of A.R. Gurney this scenario would come off as far too schematic and situational, but it turned out to be a lovely surprise; it's easily his best play in years. Unlike other recent works by the author, which have seemed promising but undercooked, Crazy Mary boasts fully-formed ideas and a drum tight dramatic arc that is both hilarious and harrowing. A few pieces fall flat (especially some tired and unnecessary shots at President Bush that have become unavoidable in Gurney's work of late), but a majority of the script is solid, and director Jim Simpson keeps the action moving at a steady pace. Sigourney Weaver makes a welcome return to the stage as the newly reconnected kin with ulterior motives, but the play belongs to the wonderful Kristine Nielsen, who is deeply affecting as a woman that time left behind. New York would be a much grimmer place without her sizable talents.

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