Mary V

L-R Shannon Spangler; Paige Espinosa; Mahima Saigal in “Mary V.” Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

By Donna Herman

Let’s rip the bandaid off this puppy quickly and get it over with.  Mary V, currently playing at Theater for the New City, is only worth seeing as a cautionary tale.  For students of the theater, you can often learn more from something that doesn’t work than from something that is seamless.  This is one of those.  Fair enough, it is playwright Rebekah Carrow’s first play and rarely are masterpieces created first time out of the gate.  In fact, David Mamet says in his online masterclass on dramatic writing, that if you want to write, you have to be willing to fail.

One of the first and most glaring problems here is that Ms. Carrow has made the overachiever’s mistake of trying to multitask on her maiden voyage.  Not only has she written the play, but she’s starring in it too.  A nearly impossible task for an experienced theater professional, let alone a rookie.  You simply can’t be in it and looking at it objectively at the same time.  It would have helped if she had surrounded herself with seasoned professionals, but director Charlotte Murray is also a recent theater school graduate as is most of the large cast.  The blind leading the blind.

But let’s face it, the main problem here is the play.  Mary V bills itself as a “Pirandellian, feminist appropriation of Shakespeare’s historical play, in which an all-female cast battles for control of a production of “Henry V” led by their king, an actress named Mary.”  The publicity material goes on to explain that the main theme of the play is inspired by Nietzsche’s warning that “whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”  Trying to meld Shakespeare, Pirandello and Nietzsche into one cohesive exploration of gender and feminism as a first foray into a play, is a Herculean task that I don’t think any one of those gentlemen could have accomplished.

I don’t mean to be discouraging here.  I think it’s great to dream big, but while you’re dreaming big, work smart to achieve your dream.  If your dream was to discover the lost city of Atlantis, you’d better learn everything there is to know about scuba diving before you set out, or you’ll drown.  By the same token, if you want to become the first combination of Meryl Streep and George Eliot, you’d better learn all you can about plot, structure, dialog, cause & effect, and how to delegate.  My suggestion is to drop $90 on David Mamet’s online masterclass in dramatic writing.  He started the Atlantic Acting School with William Macy that Ms. Carrow is a graduate of.  It’s too bad they don’t offer a writing track, but there are 25 lessons online that he himself teaches, that will lay it all out for you succinctly and at your own pace.

Mary V by Rebekah Carrow, Directed by Charlotte Murray

WITH: Rebekah Carrow (Mary); Carter Gaylord (Henry); Lindsey White (Katherine); Liam Sweeney (Montjoy); Shannon Spangler (Exeter); Gabriel Rosario (Male Exeter); Mahima Saigal (Westmoreland); Paige Espinosa (Bedford); Justin Desilets (Male Bedford); Sarah Suzuki (Court); James Johnston (Male Court); Emily Olveira (Pistol); Michael Barnette (Male Pistol); Sheree V. Campbell (Bardolph); Matthew Courson (Male Bardolph).

Sound Design by Sebastian Guttierrez; Ligting Design by Elizabeth M. Stewart; Stage Manager, Emily Tang; Fight Directors, Joe DiNozzi & Grace Clower; Assistant Director, Lizzie Kehoe.  Presented by Theater for the New City. Performances Thursday thru Sunday through June 18th. 155 First Avenue.  For tickets visit: