Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mary Rose: a Ghost Story

A week ago Saturday My Honey and I went to see a preview performance of Mary Rose at the Vineyard Theatre in New York. The play was written by J.M. Barrie (well known for Peter Pan) in 1920. It is a haunting tale of a woman who disappears, and the impact it has on her family. The play is wonderfully staged with a Narrator embedded in the action, adding to the surreal quality of what happens. I read somewhere (maybe the playbill?) that J.M. Barrie’s plays have so much written into them you really need a Narrator to capture some of that color in the staging. I interpret that to mean it would be a fascinating read.


I am going to expand on the story a bit, which may spoil it for those who plan to read it or see it. If you want to avoid that - skip this section. The play shows the reaction of some ordinary people who have to deal with an extraordinary situation. Mary Rose’s parent dealt with her disappearance of 20 days by sharing it with her prospective husband years later when he asks for her hand. They then have to deal with her second disappearance. She leaves behind a young child and distraught husband. Her parents deal with it by living in the here and now, the everyday. Her husband throws himself into his work. The boy runs off when he is about 12. You never really know what happened, what undercurrents of unspoken angst cause the boy to run off. You learn he has joined the army.

When Mary Rose reappears again 25 years later, she hasn’t aged at all. Mary Rose doesn’t understand what happened or why everyone else has aged. She is looking for her child. Eventually they all pass on, and Mary Rose becomes a ghost still looking for he child, however she has long forgotten what she is looking for.

I think the ending is rather nice. The soldier, Mary Rose’s grown up son, has come to the house where his mother lives/haunts, and tries to find out what happened to her. He shows obvious compassion for the ghost/mother who has no idea who he is. There is a message here. There are many messages here. What I like about the writing is that, even someone like me, who can never read between the lines, is able to get some of it. It isn’t farcical or blatant, but still obvious enough at some level. It isn’t just a mystery, but a study in human nature.

End of Spoiler

My Honey and I went into NYC early to hit a few tea shops in preparation for our tea party (see previous post). We didn’t have as much luck finding cool stuff as we usually do, but the play certainly made up for that. The theatre is “off Broadway” and located downtown in the bottom of a building. The stairs are somewhat steep, and the theatre was drafty. One poor woman almost fell down the stairs when her foot got stuck in her coat hem. As I was on the stairs right in front of her, I got a shot of adrenaline with the fear. Can I catch her? Will she go over the railing? Luckily she was able to catch herself on the railing, and I just gave her a hand getting untangled. Whew!

Back to the show. We loved it. We were sitting in the front row, and felt very close to the action. A real theatre experience. The story has definitely been echoed in later works – I am thinking of Picnic at Hanging Rock (in my opinion one of the scariest movies ever made), and my Honey was thinking he saw echoes of several Hitchcock films. A bonus for my Honey – the Narrator was played by Keir Dullea, who played the main character “David Bowman” in 2001: A Space Odyssey. We hung around after the show, and Mr. Dullea was nice enough to autograph the copy of the DVD we brought along.

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