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Theater Review: 'The Testament of Mary' -- 3 stars

Fiona Shaw stars in

Fiona Shaw stars in "The Testament of Mary." Credit: Fiona Shaw stars in "The Testament of Mary."

The Testament of Mary
3 stars

“The Testament of Mary,” a visceral one-woman dramatization of Colm Tóibín’s recently released, controversial short novel about the Virgin Mary that stars the characteristically intense Fiona Shaw, has the distinction of being the only Broadway show of the season, at least to my knowledge, that attracted protesters to its first preview performance.

Tóibín depicts Mary as an aging, agitated woman who is now being closely watched and silenced by the followers of her recently deceased son (who is never technically named), who want her to offer only a sanitized, easily digestible account of his life.

Mary then delivers her own version of the events, in which she criticizes the apostles as weaklings unable to look a woman in the eye, describes the suffering of Lazarus after he came back from the dead and confesses how she left the scene of the crucifixion in order to save her own life.

The text, which was already written from Mary’s point of view, is just as effective as a 90-minute monologue for her.

Under the direction of Deborah Warner, Shaw delivers a raw, raging performance. She combines these emotions with an edge of humor, some nudity and a sense of control that makes the piece feel less rambling.

There is even a sort of preshow in which the audience can walk around the stage, which is filled with items such as pottery, barbed wire, a chained-down bird and a glass cubicle isolating Shaw.

‘The Testament of Mary’ plays at the Walter Kerr Theatre through June 30. 219 W. 48th St., 212-239-6200,

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