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Paulanne Simmons

Love and Reflection in "This Is Mary Brown"

Directed by Brad Rouse
La MaMa First Floor Theatre
74A East 4th Street
Opened June 11 2015
Thurs., Fri., Sat. at 7:30pm. Sun. at 2pm, www.lamama.org or (646) 430-5374
Tickets: $18/$13 students and seniors
Closes June 28, 2015
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons June 14, 2015

Mary is a loving, if sometimes distracted mother, but she is addicted to cigarettes and alcohol. She has a wicked sense of humor and few illusions. She refuses the help she is offered and eventually dies from the effects of her addictions.

This intimate portrait of a wife and mother is not particularly exceptional. Yet, as told by Mary Brown's daughter, writer and actress Winsome Brown, it is the core of a moving solo show, "This Is Mary Brown," directed by Brad Rouse.

Brown plays over a dozen characters, including all of the Brown family, cousins, a friend, a doctor and a priest. This is quite an accomplishment. In fact, it sometimes seems the more characters actors plays the more accolades they receive.

But the truth is that in solo plays an abundance of characters (no matter how well they are played) ends up confusing the audience. Such is the case at times with "This Is Mary Brown." Although the Irish, English and American accents do provide some guidance, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the characters, especially at the beginning.

However, once it becomes clear who these numerous characters are and the role they play in Mary's life, the play is often riveting. Some of the most compelling scenes are those between Mary and her children. There is a tenderness, humor and defiance in these scenes that should make many remember their own relationships with family members.

Brown plays the guitar and sings Irish songs that express longing, love and vulnerability, and make us wish there really were leprechauns. These moments provide a welcome break in the narrative, a time to let emotions take over.

Winsome Brown's description of her mother is neither romanticized nor sensationalized. But it is a tribute from a daughter who clearly admires a woman she knows was far from perfect. A daughter can give her mother no better tribute.


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