THE TESTAMENT OF MARY
by Colm Toíbín
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Toíbín adapted the one-woman play from his novel of the same name, which appeared on the shortlist for the 2013 Mann Booker Prize. The novel itself--a narrative spoken completely in the first person by Mary--grew from a monologue, Testament, he'd penned for Irish actress Marie Mullen in the 2011 Dublin Theatre Festival.
Though its 2013 Broadway debut featuring another amazing Irish actress, Fiona Shaw, garnered three Tony Award nominations, the play's controversial characterization of the revered religious icon cut its New York run short. Yet countless audiences in Ireland, Britain, and in cities across the US, regardless of personal beliefs, have been captivated by the humanization of this beloved figure.
". . . all my life when I have seen more than two men together, I have seen foolishness and I have seen cruelty, but it is foolishness that I have noticed first. [My son] gathered around him . . . a group of misfits--men without fathers, or men who could not look a woman in the eye. . . . Though he himself . . . was not a misfit, he could have done anything, he could have spent time alone with ease, he could look at a woman as though she were his equal, and he was grateful, good-mannered, intelligent. And he used all of it . . . so he could lead a group of misfits . . . from place to place. . . .
If you put two of you together, you will get not only foolishness and the usual cruelty
. . . it will lead to what I saw and what I live with now."
(Mary, speaking to one of the gospel writers in Toíbín's The Testament of Mary)
Some time has passed since Christ's crucifixion, and in Ephesus, the aging and traumatized Mary, the mother of Jesus, seeks to seclude herself. But her solitude is shattered almost daily by visits from two men with their condescending interrogations and leading questions. To her, they are childish, self-deluding, self-important fanatics. Each of them is writing a gospel. Neither is interested in her truth. And she is highly skeptical of theirs.
Brigit Saint Brigit is proud to present The Testament of Mary, a profoundly passionate and thought-provoking play, written by one of the world's most gifted writers, Colm Tóibín and performed by Equity guest artist, Tammy Meneghini, a celebrated, and magnetic actress.
Toíbín imagines a woman who is not convinced of her son's miracles or his divinity. She doesn't know what to think, but she is suspicious of what others seek to gain from her son's life and death. And she knows the truth and bitterness of love and grief.
BSB is fortunate to again collaborate with Equity guest artist Tammy Meneghini in bringing her spring 2017 performance (in Boulder, CO) of Colm Toíbín's The Testament of Mary. Last appearing on the BSB stage in The Great Goddess Bazaar, Meneghini's vibrant characterization of Mary is truly magnetic, not to be missed.
After the show on Friday, October 13th we will be hosting a talkback--a discussion of the play and the novella of the same name-- with Ms. Meneghini and visiting scholar Kate Costello-Sullivan. This event is co-sponsored by BSB, the UNO English Department, and the Omaha Irish Cultural Center.
Michael Billington, The Guardian ". . . Tóibín's skill lies in imagining Mary's embittered perplexity without shutting the door on the story's miraculous element. There is caustic humour in Mary's description of Jesus's disciples . . . 'roaming the countryside in search of want and affliction' and a wary scepticism to her account of the raising of Lazarus, and the transformation of water into wine at the wedding at Cana. . . . [Her] memory of the crucifixion recreates its physical horror while reminding us it was a public spectacle."
Paul Taylor, The Independent" . . . beautifully wrought and emotionally devastating solo piece. . . . piercingly felt production. . .. The woman who emerges in the play proper is as much a modern widow as a biblical matron. And the voice that Toibin gives her mixes grief-stricken anguish and sardonically scathing anger. . . . Christian groups may have picketed the production when it opened on Broadway last year, but anyone who goes to the trouble of actually seeing it will be impressed by its serious imaginative integrity."
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune "a sparse, austere, intense and most assuredly haunting piece . . .. for some persons of religious faith, [it] will appear to render a sacred figure in an overly secular fashion. . . . [She] speaks more of political considerations than matters of faith. She rails, as any mother might, at the multitude of outsiders who claim to know what transpired at the moment of her own son's conception, even though she was the one who was there. And her eyes flash with anguish and anger at her son's determination not to resist his own fate, an end to his life that no mother should be asked to bear. Except, perhaps, this mother. . . . And yet this is a hardly an irreligious work. And it is quite beautifully written."
Ben Brantley, NYT "But I was never . . . more harrowed — than in those rare quiet, contained moments when this Mary made us feel that we were in a private tête-à-tête with a woman who had an extraordinary story to tell, and needed to keep telling it, forever and ever."
How the author wrote it:
Review of the novella that tells more of what it's about.
Kate Costello-Sullivan is a professor of Modern Irish literature and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York where she founded and directs an Irish literature minor. She is a leading scholar on the work of Colm Tóibín and author of numerous articles, including the monograph Mother/Country: Politics of the Personal in the Fiction of Colm Tóibín, as well as the editor of critical editions of Norah Hoult's short story collection, Poor Women! and Sheridan Le Fanu's vampire novella, Carmilla. Having received her BA in English from Rutgers, she holds an MA and PhD in English, with a specialization in Irish literature, from Boston College. Her work focuses on 19th-21st century Irish fiction