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  • ‘The Testament of Mary’ Would Achieve More With Less

    That Fiona Shaw is a force of nature is indisputable. As a very human Virgin Mary in playwright Colm Tóibín’s 90-minute monologue “The Testament of Mary,” Shaw prowls about Tom Pye’s object-strewn set declaiming her lines in everything from a whisper to a shriek and all stops in between while jangling large metal nails, hurling a hefty wooden ladder this way and that, stripping naked and plunging out of sight into a pool of water, and even at one point conveying a large yellow-beaked black vulture offstage. Working with longtime collaborator Deborah Warner as her director, Shaw is never less than a compelling presence. I’m not convinced, however, that all the symbolic clutter is the best elucidation of Tóibín’s simple, moving deconstruction of one of the world’s most beloved religious icons.
    As the author points out in a program note, Mary barely speaks in the Bible, a shadowy figure, which allows believers to impose their needs upon her. Tóibín imagines her as a loving mother and wife. This Mary is no fan of her son’s activities as an itinerant preacher and healer—“I’m not one of his followers,” she insists when


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