Natalie Gold and Lois Smith
Mary Frances has lived a
reasonably good life, as lives go, she's ninety years old and ready to
die. Born to refugees fleeing the Armenian genocide, her last wish is to
die peacefully at home surrounded by her family. Her dream, however,
collides violently with the reality of a dysfunctional family vying for her
money and her approval leaving Mary Frances to navigate the volatile
relationships of the children she raised, or at least die trying..
Without a doubt, Peace for
Mary Frances has an imposing cast led by the 87 year-old Lois Smith who
commands the stage and the heart, even when socked away much of the time in a
corner elevated bedroom. It is she who has sewn the seeds for this
fractious family now gathered around her by using money and the promise of
maternal love as weapons to control her children, particularly her daughters
who are in a perpetual war with one another. Both J. Smith-Cameron as Alice,
the middle alienated child now a part-time astrologer, and Johanna Day as
Fanny, the recovering addict and youngest of the Mary Frances children are
pitch perfect and ever so sad as her damaged progeny while their inept older
brother, Eddie, adeptly portrayed by Paul Lazar, selfishly distances himself as
much as possible from the disordered proceedings around him.
Lois Smith, J.
Smith-Cameron, Paul Lazar photos by Monique Carboni.
tried to break the abuse cycle with her own two daughters. Helen who is a
successful TV actor but who battles with OCD and self doubt and Rosie. a new
mother herself who is determined not to make the same mistakes as her maternal
progenitors. They are adroitly portrayed by Heather Burns and Natalie
J. Smith-Cameron, Heather Burns
Ironically, the strength of the
cast becomes a problem for the play because the meticulously realistic
portrayal of the details entailed in hospice care such as "terminal sedation"
or "When in doubt, medicate," makes the giving in to death an
often uncomfortable experience leaving the audience to yearn for Mary Frances'
passing as much as she does. "All I want to do is be comfortable,"
advises Mary Frances, "I'm not fighting this."
There are some truly touching
moments in Peace for Mary Frances such as the dying Mary Frances'
relationship with her hospice nurse, Clara, portrayed with nuanced skill by
Melle Powers as well as when Mary Frances reveals to her daughter Alice the
abuse she suffered during her supposedly loving marriage, "He hit
me," she confesses, "I used to save one dollar a week of my
tiny allowance - for everything...I thought we were Charles Dickens
poor." Only shortly before her husband's death did she discover how
rich he actually was and the many dalliances he had while they were wed.
Though the play is graced with
a top-notch director Lila Neugebauer (Wolves, Edward Albee's At Home at the
Zoo), she can't quite compensate for the play's writing and stylistic
Ms. Thorne, a student at Brooklyn
College, is making her professional playwriting debut with Peace for Mary
Frances and she shows much promise with her sense of dialogue and character
but would benefit with revisiting the work to tighten the content, smooth the
transitions and better develop the ancillary characters associated with Mary
Frances' hospice care such as Bonnie and Michael, portrayed effectively by Mia
Katigbak and Brian Miskell. Looking forward to Ms. Thorne refining her
Peace for Mary Frances
480 West 42nd Street
Off Broadway Drama
Running time: 2 hrs. and 35 mins.
Closing Date: June 17, 2018