Mary, Mary is well past its best-before date even though it fits the Classic Festival mandate!

Reviewed by Iris Winston

cigaretette chaos

The Classic Theatre Festival’s declared mandate is “presenting the classic hits of Broadway and the London stage” and there is no doubt that Mary, Mary falls within the defined requirement.

This romantic comedy was one of playwright Jean Kerr’s two biggest hits. (The other was Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.) Chalking up a four-year run in the early 1960s, Mary, Mary, was one of the longest running Broadway plays of the decade.

The issue is that, while it may have seemed fresh and innovative half a century ago, the script, with a stilted first act weighted down with exposition, now gives the impression of being well past its best-before date.

It is clear from the start that Bob and Mary, separated for nine months but still emotionally connected, will choose each other over their new commitments, despite his extreme practicality and her wisecracking contrariness. (The title is drawn from the nursery rhyme, Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?)

The certainty of the outcome makes the script creak even more. Nevertheless, the CTF production is generally amusing and David Magladry’s set and Mylène Ménard’s costumes, together with the heavy focus on cigarette smoking, place the play firmly in the 1960s.

The entertainment value is periodically hampered by director Laurel Smith’s decision to mix realism and caricature in this production. The in-the-face, super-bimboism of Bob’s fiancée, Tiffany (Heather Sande) is too artificial, particularly when contrasted with a solid, believable performance from Alan Lee as Oscar, the almost divorced couple’s friend and lawyer.

Rachel Jones, smartly attired and moving fluidly, delivers an effective performance in the title role. Alistair Love has fun as Mary’s movie star, love interest, keeping his characterization just below caricature most of the time. However, Matthew Olver as Bob appears very low on enjoyment, despite getting not one, but two girls in his quest for marital bliss (or a good housekeeper).

Mary, Mary continues at the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth to September 2.

Director: Laurel Smith

Set and lighting: David Magladry

Costumes: Mylène Ménard

Cast:

Bob………………………………………………………….Matthew Olver

Mary…………………………………………………………Rachel Jones

Oscar…………………………………………………………Alan Lee

Dirk………………………………………………………….Alistair Love

Tiffany……………………………………………………….Heat


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