Mary Page Marlowe is the latest play by acclaimed Chicago-based playwright Tracy Letts. But it’s not your ordinary drama: Each scene skips through decades in the life of its title character, and the audience has to put the pieces in order. Featuring 18 actors, the Second Stage Theater production is not small. Six of them portray Mary—ranging from ages 12 to 69 (she’s played as a teen and college student by Mia Sinclair Jenness and Emma Geer, respectively). It’s an unusual device, and one that allows us the pleasure of seeing some of NYC’s best actresses in concentrated doses. Here are four reasons you should check out the many faces of Mary Page Marlowe.
1. Susan Pourfar
This brooding but deeply likable performer plays Mary at ages 40 and 44, as her marriage is on the rocks and, later, as her drug-abusing son goes missing. Pourfar has a wonderful quality of being both open and accessible but also inward, which makes you lean forward to catch every shadow of pain or doubt that crosses her face.
2. Tatiana Maslany
You know her from the clone-mystery TV show Orphan Black, but turns out Maslany has stage presence aplenty. She’s Mary in her mixed-up late 20s and 30s, trapped in a loveless marriage and now a serial adulterer. The actress has to turn up the erotic heat in scenes that are definitely not sexy—yet you can’t look away.
3. Blair Brown
The warm and sensible veteran of stage and screen gets some of the most nuanced and soulful sections of the play, showing Mary in her sunset years and, sadly, suffering from an unnamed disease. Just goes to show that drama isn’t always about crisis points and conflict.
4. Kellie Overbey
You need nerves of steel to do what Overbey does each night. She starts off her scenes with bland neutrality (she’s Mary as a 50-year-old tax accountant) and ratchets up to screaming panic and rage. Raw and exposed, she shows how great actors can go from zero to 60 in seconds.
Why You Should Go: For a tasting menu of first-class acting, you can’t beat this fractured portrait of a complicated woman.
Mary Page Marlowe
Second Stage Theater (Tony Kiser Theater)
305 West 43rd Street (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues), Midtown
Through Sunday, August 19