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Mary Jane

Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great writing
83
Critics
84
42 reviews
Members
82
167 reviews
 

New York Theatre Workshop presents Pulitzer Prize finalist Amy Herzog's new play about the struggles and joys of a single mother with a severely ill toddler.

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During a rain-drenched summer in New York City, Mary Jane navigates the mundane, shattering, and sublime aspects of caring for a chronically sick child. 'Mary Jane' marks a return to New York Theatre Workshop for Herzog and her two-time Obie Award-winning director Anne Kauffman. The two previously collaborated on 2013's 'Belleville.'

 


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Reviews (209)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
84
Avg Score

90
Variety

"Amy Herzog’s devastating new work...is must-see theater for anyone with a heart...Mary Jane is a person of many parts–and Coon respects and relates to them all...The beauty of the character and the wonder of Coon’s performance is that, through it all, Mary Jane succeeds in maintaining her upbeat nature, her life-affirming optimism, her wonderful sense of humor. Believe it or not, this play is full of laughs. They just happen to be on the morbid side." Full Review

80
BroadwayWorld

"To say that there are no dramatic highs and lows in Herzog's touching new drama is by no means a criticism. It's more of a recognition of the beautifully understated naturalism in both the playwright's text and in Kauffman's production...There's a good deal of realistic humor, played a as natural reaction to an impossible situation but, while never directly stated, the play's focus is a damnation of a nation's system of health care." Full Review

95
Time Out New York

"There are no villains here, only people doing their best under sometimes crushing circumstances. All are rendered in lovely detail by Herzog and the five women of the cast, directed by Anne Kauffman with characteristic attention to the importance of offhand nuance...Herzog shows the strain of Mary Jane’s situation—layered with beautiful reserve by Coon—but she also succeeds in dramatizing kindness, attentiveness, honesty, connection." Full Review

90
Theatermania

"Mary Jane is played with extraordinary grace by Carrie Coon...Much like her deeply authentic performance, 'Mary Jane' is perhaps the realest play we'll see all year, one that is precise in its details and is delivered with exceptional dignity by director Kauffman...Herzog's delicate script is infused with lines and references that go beyond a writer's everyday understanding of the subject matter...The play tugs at the heartstrings without being manipulative in the way that so many dramas are." Full Review

90
The New York Times

"A heartbreaker for anyone human...The play, under Kauffman’s ideally detailed direction, is not out to answer any questions. In that sense 'Mary Jane,' with its ordinary name, is a character study, an Everywoman story..But 'Mary Jane' is nevertheless a very big drama, even if its conflicts are almost never between people. They are instead between Mary Jane and her unspoken ideas about life—that is, God. To me, this makes 'Mary Jane' the most profound and harrowing of Herzog’s many fine plays." Full Review

85
New Yorker

"Herzog’s beautiful new play...Coon is an appealing performer, but at first I was put off by her characterization—sometimes it felt as though she was working on one level, until I realized that Mary Jane hardly ever deviates from her optimism because she’s a preternaturally optimistic person...I was much more taken by Colón-Zayas and Wehle...'Mary Jane' is Herzog’s most satisfying work to date because it has verisimilitude that many contemporary realistic plays don’t." Full Review

90
Village Voice

“Compact but wondrous...The focus is on his ultracompetent single mother, Mary Jane, played with crystalline, almost scary serenity by Carrie Coon...The writer’s mix of sympathy and showmanship is gorgeously ruthless...Kauffman’s clear-eyed production balances cool distance and precisely deployed humor and warmth to ratchet up the tension and stakes. Neither play nor staging pander to base desires for cathartic tears or medical miracles...An exquisite, bracing drama.” Full Review

85
Theater Life

"Shattering...By indirect means, Herzog, Coon, and director Anne Kauffman reveal the overwhelming details of Mary Jane’s stoic existence...The play unfolds with compassion, yet at the same time, it’s unsparing in its matter-of-factness...Coon delivers the most heartbreaking, yet un-theatrical performances in recent memory...A hyper-realistic, no-nonsense view of a tragic situation." Full Review

70
New York Theater

"A series of casual, seemingly random conversations, interrupted by emergencies of greater or lesser severity...'Mary Jane' requires patience–more patience than some theatergoers might be able to muster. Mary Jane slowly reveals more about her life, her child and her hardship as the play progresses, and we gradually come to understand just how much it takes for her to remain both diligent and hopeful...There is great skill on display in the five-member cast." Full Review

95
The Hollywood Reporter

"This beautiful new work is directed with ultra-naturalistic subtlety by Anne Kauffman...By virtue of its elegant structure, its expository economy, its gentle humor, fine-grained characterizations and knack for sharp observation cloaked in seemingly casual glimpses of a life, 'Mary Jane' sidesteps the banalities of the medical drama to become something richer...While the entire cast performs with real warmth and feeling, everything is understated and unerringly believable." Full Review

80
Theatre's Leiter Side

"Amy Herzog's affecting play…reminds us that ordinary people can be saints and that religion has nothing to do with it…The…dramatis personae obviously has a feminist slant but that doesn't prevent the play from being an engagingly moving portrait of a particular mother's travails. Herzog's generally naturalistic dramaturgy sometimes seeps into theatrical contrivance…but it remains consistently involving and occasionally eye-moistening…The acting…is thankfully restrained and fully believable." Full Review

90
The Wall Street Journal

"Ms. Coon’s new supporting cast is perfect, as is Ms. Kauffman’s discreetly compelling staging. As for the play, it is, here as in New Haven, overwhelming, a wrenching tale of everyday heroism that is all the more touching for its total lack of sentimentality. I’ve never seen a more honest portrayal of the day-to-day demands of caregiving, or a more moving tribute to a mother’s love. It might just be Ms. Herzog’s best play to date." Full Review

75
The Huffington Post

"There can be no question about the seriousness with which Herzog has tended to her work...Bolstered by Kauffman’s stringently compassionate direction, Herzog more than competently gives three-dimensional life to what is a case history with full details, and as such occasionally slows down on the dramatic beam...Herzog doesn’t quite find the entirely satisfying ending to her 'Mary Jane,' but at least those glimpses do leaven a work effectively poignant and very personal." Full Review

95
Front Row Center

"A flawless production…In one of the best performances of the new season thus far, Ms. Coon tries to maintain a facade of ease over an almost unbearable inner tension, tirelessly coping with her fate and hoping against hope...Each scene flows seamlessly into the next with a slow and even pacing that captures the audience. You know you are doing something right when even the smallest of laugh lines results in tension-releasing guffaws…The supporting cast, all in dual roles, also shine.” Full Review

70
Times Square Chronicles

"Do women really want to sit through this heartbreakingly depressing play?...What makes no sense is the goodness and hope that fills Mary Jane. She has nothing...The whole play is waiting for the inevitable...Carrie Coon brings this play full throttle, with a subtly layered performance which is breathtaking...Anne Kauffman’s direction keeps us off balance...Herzog is saying much in this play, at times by saying very little." Full Review

90
Deadline

"Coon's work in the title role of Amy Herzog’s slow burner of a play, 'Mary Jane'...coils, quietly and almost imperceptibly, to a climax that, like the death of a loved one, strips us to the core, no matter how well-prepared we think we are...Mary Jane threatens to be campaigning for sainthood, but every time she approaches a threshold, playwright and director conspire brilliantly to remind us how forcefully human she is." Full Review

90
New York Daily News

"One of the triumphs of this clear-eyed, compassionate and engaging play at New York Theatre Workshop through mid-October is that it upends expectations even if it doesn’t ever take drastic turns. Fine writing and feel-real dialogue each have ways of exerting an insistent tug. The same holds for strong acting...It’s a heavy story, but still infused with humor. Director Anne Kauffman’s deliberately paced production brings out the lightness and gravity." Full Review

75
CurtainUp

"Thanks to Herzog's gift for listening to people...and the performances of the entire ensemble as subtly directed by Kauffman, there are enough moments to allow some lightness and laughter into this grimly realistic play...It's Mary Jane's continuing overall human caring and curiosity and Herzog's dialogue for those interactions with the people she comes in contact with that make 'Mary Jane' a touching group portrait despite its meandering plotlessness." Full Review

88
Front Mezz Junkies

"Mary Jane is exquisitely portrayed by Carrie Coon....It’s a beautiful crafted construction...It’s clear the playwright understands this topic from a deep emotional and raw place, that causes the anguish to echo throughout the theatre. We give our heart over to Mary Jane, completely without question. The ending is complex, surprising, yet authentic, and we embrace a sense of clarity that comes from the unclear connection to peace and understanding. " Full Review

80
Theatre Reviews Limited

"Jellinek’s set design here is closed in, cramped, claustrophobic – much like Mary Jane’s psyche...Coon’s multilayered performance counterpoints the rich layers of Herzog’s script which, under Kauffman’s razor-sharp direction, are peeled back with sensitivity and grace...Mary Jane experiences the breadth and depth of transcendence and catharsis at the play’s end in a scene rich in magical realism immersed in blessed redemptive release." Full Review

90
Gotham Playgoer

"Herzog captures the heroic nature of Mary Jane’s daily struggle without placing her on a pedestal. Coon’s naturalistic portrayal is immensely powerful. The other actors are strong as well. There are flashes of humor, but one does not expect a happy ending. The low-key final scene initially disappointed me, but, on further reflection, I decided that its tentativeness supported the play’s honesty...It was a heartbreaking, but also uplifting experience." Full Review

70
CitiTour

"An intelligent yet understated work that nonetheless almost blunts its own power...When Alex is rushed to the hospital, the story gains some urgency. Mary Jane begins to transform, and we finally see the pain and anger...There are no easy answers to be had, no deep revelations. In the end, Herzog leaves us with a delicate understanding that life, whether we are the mother of a sick child, a struggling college student or an overworked employee, is what we choose to make of it." Full Review

80
Financial Times (UK)

"Herzog and director Kauffman opt for an ultra-naturalistic approach that draws us into the grueling monotony of watching over a child at imminent risk of death...All this quotidian patter, which never strikes a false or melodramatic note, is overlain by the mortal tension of the beeps coming from medical equipment...Anchoring that tale of irredeemable woe is Coon’s intense yet understated performance. Her Mary Jane holds the stage, sustained by a love that is both cool and relentless." Full Review

80
DC Metro Theater Arts

"Told with infinite grace and attention to detail. Kauffman has skillfully maneuvered four actresses who play eight characters in support of Coon...Coon avoids all semblance of cliché in playing the stoic Mary Jane...'Mary Jane' offers us more of an education on the intricacies and pain this mother must suffer than it does a story of suspense or one with surprise twists and turns...But the writing is so on target, the performances are so truthful, I found myself absorbed most of the way." Full Review

90
The Washington Post

"For a heart-piercing ride-along on the avalanche of emotion engulfing the parent of a desperately ill, incapacitated child, playwright Amy Herzog exceeds her own fine record of accomplishment with 'Mary Jane'...Carrie Coon plays that mother smashingly in New York Theatre Workshop's impeccable production, flawlessly directed by Anne Kauffman...Herzog invests in each of her characters a beguiling sense of authenticity." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
82
Avg Score

80
Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Great staging

See it if You want a fresh, more realistic take on being a caretaker and spending time in the hospital

Don't see it if You want bigger conflict

75
Naturalistic, Good acting, Unusual slice of life, Unsatisfying ending

See it if Enjoy naturalistic plays and appreciate less-told stories. Moms dealing with ill kids are usually "weepy" or "heroic." This is more subtle.

Don't see it if You prefer a clear dramatic arc with a discernible resolution. This has no conflict, character development or real plot.

88
Thrilling detailed story.

See it if you love great acting and specificity of detail. Great performances in service of a great script.

Don't see it if you're looking for more flash.

96
Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Resonant, Great writing

See it if Masterful writing of single woman whose humanity beyond a bulletproof exterior is slowly revealed as situations prove burdensome

Don't see it if Production budget concerns require double casting from a talented cast that one may not expect from a first class production

90
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Great writing

See it if You want a show that has depth in it's simplicity, and has a cast that brings Herzog's beautiful play to life.

Don't see it if You have no tolerance for subjects associated with children with special needs.

65
Disappointing

See it if The show closed tonight so this format doesn’t work well. Despite good reviews and what seemed like a wrenching subject I was unmoved.

Don't see it if No further chance to see this production.

Also Good performances but I left the theater confused about the play’s poi... Read more Read less

95
Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intense, Moving

See it if You want to see a play that builds beautifully in an artfully calibrated production building quietly to profound emotional resonance.

Don't see it if Issues of child illness are too close at hand. It is a sensitive portrait, but I imagine deeply challenging if the issues are nearby.

89
Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Profound, Great writing

See it if you love great actors doing justice to superb writing. This play is way more than the sum of its parts - I was profoundly moved.

Don't see it if You want a feel good play with a happy ending.

80
Ambitious, Great acting, Intense, Resonant

See it if You like serious and thoughtful drama about a tragic situation, acted impeccably by an all-female cast.

Don't see it if You don't like plays about illness.

88
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Moving

See it if a single mother dealing with a seriously ill child (cerebral palsy); her psychological reactions which start very upbeat; wonderful Ms. Coon

Don't see it if want more action & less psychological; want supporting characters to be more developed - they really only serve to show Ms. Coons reactions

Also 1. Very, very sad story... Read more Read less

78
Absorbing, Intense, Resonant, Riveting, Great writing

See it if You appreciate strong, varied ensemble work. You enjoy stories about simple people grappling with life.

Don't see it if You struggle to watch stories of care-giving, especially when geared towards children with disabilities.

Also A trigger warning would have been appreciated, especially for audience... Read more Read less

75
Confusing, Disappointing, Overrated, Disturbing

See it if you want to see a play about a mother's love & sacrifice to care for her extremely ill child & how it affects her being in dealing with life

Don't see it if you don't like very heavy dramas that leave you both depressed and moved to a point of feeling like you went through the ringer.

94
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You like stark playable about by difficult issues. Fantastic acting. A hyper realistic set. Thought provoking, emotional play.

Don't see it if You want something light and cheerful. This is serious and intense. Deals with difficult issues involving a very sick child.

70
Thought-provoking, Relevant, Disappointing, Overrated, Slow

See it if You like serious drama written with enough humor to not be devastating

Don't see it if It pushes your buttons to be immersed in the sad depressing world of death of a child

81
Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Great writing, Slow

See it if You’re interested in very real stories and dialogue about heavy, topical issues, including healthcare and disabilities.

Don't see it if You’re not interested in depressing plays about parents dealing with sick children.

80
Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to see a new , original American drama about dealing with a challenging life situation. A superb ensemble cast led by Carrie Coon.

Don't see it if you don’t like dramas dealing with depressing themes or don’t like theatre that makes you think and feel emotions.

93
Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Great writing

See it if you want to see a show that really hits you in the emotions. It's a show that will hit hard

Don't see it if watching someone deal with an incredibly difficult situation will be particularly upsetting to you

93
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Great writing

See it if You want to be challenged, not feel comfortable, and walk out feeling that you’ve just seen something extraordinary.

Don't see it if You have issues with disease, want a laugh riot, or expect big showy performances. They were excellent, but quietly real. Amazingly done.

99
Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Great writing

See it if It's a wow,fabulous writing incredible acting.this is what the theater should be

Don't see it if .beyond intense,no one moved. You need to be in the right mood for this,if not wait till you are

98
Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if you want to watch a superbly written and performed work of art on a subject that matters. Right up there with Dear Evan Hansen

Don't see it if you would have a problem with the subject matter

97
Absorbing, Exquisite, Wonderful ensemble work from five great actresses, Beautifully directed by anne kauffman, Amy herzog's best work to date

See it if you want to see a marvelous ensemble of female actresses in what is destined to be one of the best plays of this theatre season.

Don't see it if you have problems dealing with a play about a chronically ill child.

85
Funny, Absorbing, Edgy

See it if You like your realism punctuated with trenchant, morbid humor.

Don't see it if The story of a single parent raising a severely disabled child will trouble you.

Also Across the board, fine performances from the entire ensemble. But, Ms.... Read more Read less

83
Great acting, Thought-provoking, Masterful

See it if you love phenomenal ensemble acting and if you like Herzog's work. It has quiet moments of brilliance, beautifully realistic character.

Don't see it if you don't want to do a little work in relating the character's experience to something bigger.

90
Funny, Great acting, Masterful, Resonant, Great writing

See it if Want to see a flawless well written and performed production.

Don't see it if You can't watch a play about cerebral palsy, even though the plot evolved with grace at all times.

90
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see a play that shows how a sick child impacts on the mother and the people around her.

Don't see it if you don't want to see a play about a sick child.

Also This is a well-acted play with moving scenes of a mother's emotions du... Read more Read less