Carrie Coon’s face is a marvel to behold on stage. Her emotions as the mother of an (unseen) severely handicapped son in Mary Jane run the gamut from matter-of-fact acceptance to heartbreak – and if she can’t turn away from the tasks at hand we can’t turn away either.
Mary Jane is a five-person, all female play. The first scene takes place in Mary Jane’s home, where we hear the sounds of machinery from her son Alex’s room. We learn he was born prematurely with multiple disabilities. The other people in and out of the apartment are Mary Jane’s super, an aide who helps with Alex’s care, her niece, and another mother of a handicapped child. They share familiar stories – how Mary Jane is juggling caring for a child and work, how childcare can be inconsistent, and how mothers have to advocate for their children. All of this is multiplied because of Alex’s condition but Mary Jane talks without self-pity. We may recoil and wonder how can she show no emotion but we realize that this is Mary Jane’s armor, her control mechanism over a situation in which she really has no control..
The set transforms from Mary Jane’s apartment to a hospital room as Alex has a major setback. Other characters are introduced – the hospital chaplain, a doctor, a music therapist, and another mother with a hospitalized child. We watch as Mary Jane’s carefully constructed life begins to unravel. She attempts to make plans for Alex’s future but the doctor gently indicates that the future is tenuous at best. The end of the play is a meditation on letting go as Mary Jane, suffering from a migraine, sits with the chaplain and waits for what the migraine, and the future, will bring. AFW
New York Theatre Workshop, 79 East 4th Street
Ticket price: $79
Runs thru: October 28, 2017
Running time: 95 minutes, no intermission