Strange Mary Strange (Theatre on the Verge) 2011 SummerWorks Review

The playwright, Evan Tsitsias, said in the programme that he wanted to write a play about a character stuck on a plane with no place to escape all the thoughts in it’s head. He then felt he needed to add subject matter and he added themes of how sex is introduced to children and how that can affect their adulthood.

I believe he achieved this goal, I just didn’t connect with how he went about it.  As the lights go down and we hear the sounds of women climaxing and for the following 50 minutes that level of energy and tone of the piece doesn’t really stop. I found the opening monologue to be, although a little long, very powerful in it’s poetry and use of imagery, the lead actor was engaging and the other two actresses supported her in their groping which  heightened the feeling of overwhelming confusion that Mary probably felt. Unfortunately from here on in all I felt was overwhelming confusion.

We are introduced to three different Marys;  a child, a young adult and a grown woman and although all three actresses are very talented and watchable I found the play tried to cover too much subject matter. The choice of how this subject matter was approached combined with the insane heat at the TPM backspace  left me feeling as if I had been hit in the face. Which could be what was intended.

I certainly had a hard time watching the piece, not because it was too extreme but because I couldn’t connect with the character so  I ended up not caring about her. No subject was left uncovered; child abuse, gang rape, prostitution, compulsive masturbation.

Then I found the choice of language strange – how the word pussy was used so much that it lost it’s meaning but that the male genitalia was only ever referred to as pee pee or a forearm. I am assuming these were concious decisions but it made me question why and move further away from this piece.

However, I found the staging really wonderful and the way the chalk was used was inventive, as well as the lighting. Certain parts of the story were repeated either by a different actor or in a different way and that worked for me. I just felt that  the story was a little all over the place and that it was too much for a one act play. I would be interested to talk to people who really resonated with the piece as I know that there will be lots of people who do, sadly I wasn’t one of them.

Strange Mary Strange plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace:

Thursday August 4th 7:00 PM
Saturday August 6th 9:30 PM
Sunday August 7th 11:30 AM
Wednesday August 10th 4:30 PM
Friday August 12th 2:00 PM
Saturday August 13th 4:30 PM
Sunday August 14th 7:00 PM

All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at, by phone at 416.504.7529, in person at at the Arts Box Office (located at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave., One block North East of Bathurst & Queen W. M-F 12PM-7PM, Weekends 10AM-8PM) (Advance tickets are $15 +HST and $1 service fee)

                    – Several money-saving passes  are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows