By David Walters

Cole Escola IS Mary Todd Lincoln in Oh, Mary!

Bored in the White House, petulantly acting out, self-medicating with drink (even delving into the paint thinner), unhappy in marriage, continually tugging the hairs under her husband Abe’s stovepipe that he must continually devise ways to keep her occupied, antagonizing her chaperon, Louise (Bianca Leigh deftly keeping it all together), and desperately looking to escape to another life that she knows must exist out there somewhere, Mrs. Lincoln is more than a handful. It reminded me of what Teddy Roosevelt said about his daughter, “I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice Roosevelt. I cannot possibly do both.” Neither can Abe.

Now put all of this in a box, shake it vigorously so that it’s thoroughly mixed, scrawl the word CAMP in red ink with an extra big capital C on all sides, give it one more shake, fling open the lid, and you’ve got a romping rampage of fun and an over-the-top extravaganza of irreverent poking the paradigm of historical accuracy. Once seen, you won’t soon forget the chaos that happened in front of you.

Believe it or not, the press rep for Oh, Mary! has asked us not to reveal the many twists and turns, imaginative spins, and creative surprises that run rampant throughout this show. I must wholeheartedly concur with their wishes as it would take away from the enjoyment of what you’re about to see and diminish the shock value of the surprises.

Cole Escola is effulgence (a state of being bright and radiant; splendor, brilliance) in their writing, acting, singing, and dancing. If you know any of their other work, it’s possible to see the progression that has brought Oh, Mary! to the stage. They have also surrounded themselves with stupendous talent (all guided by the skill of director/choreographer Sam Pinkleton) that totally gets them, from head to toe, and is able to swing on the same trapeze high above the crowd sans net.

The sets, by Dots, are splendid in setting the stage for the mayhem that ensues and the speed with which they change. The period costumes by Holly Pierson add as much to the characterizations as does the acting. It’s obvious that Cole enjoys being in the dress that Astor made, donning the ringlets by Leah, and uses them all to their fullest.

If you like camp, if you adore Cole, you’ll have a splendid time.

Oh, Mary! now playing at The Lucille Lortel Theatre through March 24. Written by Cole Escola and directed by Sam Pinkleton.

Starring: Cole Escola, Bianca Leigh, Tony Macht, Conrad Ricamora, and James Scully.

Scenic Designer, Dots; Costume Designer, Holly Pierson; Lighting Designer, Cha See; Sound Designers, Daniel Kluger and Drew Levy; Wig Designer, Leah J. Loukas; Gowns by Astor Yang, and Original Music, Daniel Kluger.

80 minutes running time.

Tickets can be purchased here.