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“Mary Jane” Broadway Play Review

Jitney Books is in New York City writing short reviews of plays that were recently nominated for Tony Awards. First on our list is Mary Jane, featuring the Broadway debut of Rachel McAdams. The drama Mary Jane is nominated for 4 Tony Awards, including Best Play, Actress and Director.

Mary Jane Review

Mary Jane at the Manhattan Theater Club (MTC) is hard to watch. It is stressful, tense and depressing without being sad or emotional, or even moving. We understand critics loved the play, with the New York Times calling it a “heartbreaker for anyone human” but we disagree.

Mary Jane focuses on the mother (McAdams) of a child born premature with illnesses that will likely lead to the child’s death. She is joined by a rotating cast of nurses and aids and neighbors as we navigate the humdrum monotony of caregiving. The play is sad and gut-wrenching, possibly triggering for some, but it’s more stressful than sad, more boring than cathartic. The acting is world class and there are moments of light, but this is a tough 85 minutes to sit through without intermission.

We always gauge the crowd when trying to reflect a play.

There were more yawns in the house than tears. In fact, there were no tears, unless you count the cringy tearing of an audience’s soul waiting for the play to end. There wasn’t enough character development to care about anything other than the end. Milling about in the basement lounge after the play, there wasn’t much positivity coming from the talk. The word “intense” was overheard on three occasions, and two conversations brought up the feeling of wanting it to end.

Death and dying stories are important and multifaceted, but this one somehow falls flat.

What is your death & dying story? Is it a celebration of a life lost? Is it heart-wrenching and visceral? Does it focus on the person dying or the caretakers or maybe those left behind?

How do you make the audience care?

Mary Jane Poignant but Stressful

Towards the end of the play, Mary Jane indeed aptly drifts into a spiritual realm, invoking the community of religion, and deeper existential questions around faith.

And actress Lily Santiago, playing a Music Therapist in the hospital, sings a downright harrowing rendition of the children’s song “Bluebird Through My Window” – the song will stay with you.

The play, in all its seriousness, will indeed stay with you long after you see it. It’s just so goddamn stressful.

Mary Jane Conclusion

Good, but very stressful, cringy, heavy.

Verdict: do not recommend.

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