Tracy Letts, as both performer and playwright, is for the most part, a sure winner. His works are mind-boggling and very deep into the mental being of his characters. His newest work, “Mary Page Marlowe”, now making its World Premiere on the main stage at Steppenwolf Theatre is a unique piece that will be great for after show discussions, group or individual. This is a one-act performance, roughly 90 minutes long that tells the story of Mary Page Marlowe, an accountant from Youngstown Ohio, who finds herself forced to leave her city for a new frontier in Kentucky. She is in the process of a rough divorce and as the play opens, she is in a diner with her kids, a son Louis (Jack Edwards- who is adorable, but needs to project further) and Wendy ( Madeline Weinstein, who plays the teen-ager to perfection). While neither child is happy about the way the divorce will break up their family, we learn that there is no other way. At this point, Mary Page Marlowe is played by Rebecca Spence. I mention this, as I do, because this particular play has six women playing the titles role in the 90 minutes of story-telling.
Under the stylish and smooth direction of Anna D. Shapiro (who has done several Letts shows) on Todd Rosenthal’s very clever set that allows rooms to slide on and off the stage in moments, never breaking the mood of what we are watching, we go through Mary Page Marlowe’s very existence. This very ordinary woman, who only wanted to lead a pretty-much ordinary life, only a bit better than her parents, is forced to make some very difficult choices. What we see through Letts’ eyes is a woman who is far more complicated than we might believe from what we see at the onset.
The other women that bring this character to life are : Blair Brown, Carrie Coon, Laura T. Fisher, Caroline Hefferman, Annie Munch and the aforementioned Ms Spence. Each represents our main character at different ages and stages of her life.It is a play that forces us to focus as we go from time period to time period and stages of her life that are not in any actual order. We watch her with her college roomies, her husband(s), lover, and in many different situations that while they seem simple, make for a woman who has complexities, as do all of our lives. There is some mystery to why this woman does the things that she does.
The ensemble member that complete the puzzle that Letts has created are Ian Barford, Stephen Cefalu Jr., Amanda Drinkall, Kristen Fitzgerald. Tess Frazer, Keith D. Gallagher, Sandra Marquez, Gary Wilmes, Alan Wilder and Ariana Venturi. ” Each and every character that Letts has written is important to the audience. Each allows us to see what Ms Marlowe goes through during her life. Her mother abused her mentally and probably caused her later problems. Her drinking may have also resulted from the early years. Again, this is a tightly wound woman with those around her forced to feed off her emotions.
I would leave the extra time to stay in the building for the discussion after the performance as I truly think you will want to hear what others have to say, On the tech side, the sound (Richard Woodbury), original Music (Diana Lawrence hits the nail on the head), lighting (Marcus Doshi) and projections (Sven Ortel) are first class, as are the costumes (Linda Roethke) and wigs (Penny Lane Studios).
“Mary Page Marlowe” will continue at Steppenwolf Theatre thru May 29th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
2 p.m. 5/11- 5/25
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 3 and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 and 7:30 p.m.
NO PERFORMANCES ON MOTHER’S DAY
Tickets range from $20-$54 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 312-335-1650 or online at www.steppenwolf.org
There is a new seating area for this production- THE PIT
Sunday May 8th- American Sign Language Interpretation 7:30 p.m.
Saturday , May 7th Open Captioning 3 p.m.
Audio Description (no touch tour) Sunday, May 22nd at 3 p.m. with a “Touch Tour” on May 29th at 1:30 p.m, followed by an audio described performance at 3 p.m.
For more updated info, visit www.steppenwolf.org
The theater is located at 1650 N. Halsted.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Mary Page Marlowe”