New York | 2h 35m | Already closed

Peace for Mary Frances

From 33 critic and 112 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Slow, Disappointing, Thought-provoking, Absorbing

About the show

Lois Smith stars in the New Group's new wrenching and caustically funny portrait of an American family in crisis. More…

Mary Frances has lived a good life; 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 collides with reality as three generations of explosive women flood her small New England home to battle for their family’s legacy. Mary Frances must navigate the volatile relationships of the children she raised -- or die trying. Lois Smith stars as a tenacious survivor, struggling to break the bonds that tie her to this life. 

The Observer

“A new play with sensitive writing, informed acting, wise and naturalistic staging...A profound work by a fresh talent...So beautifully written that it is impossible to believe it’s the playwright’s first play...What saves 'Mary Frances' from becoming maudlin is the superb ensemble work, headed by the great Lois Smith, the sublime writing, and the naturalistic style of gifted director Lila Neugebauer that adds up to the kind of moment-to-moment realism we haven’t seen since Elia Kazan." Full Review

The Clyde Fitch Report

"Thorne’s painful and beautiful play...Neugebauer keeps the plot turns moving with delicacy and nuance. And it’s mesmerizing...The work seems at peace with allowing characters to tell their stories step by step, word by word...This new play is both heartbreaking and hopeful, presenting a stage of life that’s too long and not long enough. We’re all just doing the best we can." Full Review

Stage Left

"Anyone who has experienced the decline and death of a nonagenarian parent or grandparent will be struck by the piercing familiarity and hyper-realism of this play, which wunderkind director Lila Neugebauer unpacks with great discipline and measurement over the course of its two and a half hour length...Ms. Day and Ms. Smith-Cameron’s feud is particularly vicious to observe, and both actors are in top form." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"Thorne’s painstaking approach feels unique. 'Mary Frances' tracks a kind of death that is less typically found in art: planned, scheduled, and mundane in its tragedy...The hospice process is anathema to drama. It’s mostly a waiting game, with little room for surprises. Thorne and Neugebauer don’t try to push against this; instead, they embrace the painful wait...Thorne provides no reconciliation, nor even a final blowout – just a sad stumbling to the end." Full Review


"Lily Thorne’s ambitious script is very detailed in its depiction of hospice care—almost a documentary about how the American healthcare system handles death. But when the focus shifts to the relationships among the different family members, the play seems to come to life...Thorne manages to find a surprising amount of laughs in the midst of the morbidity, and director Lila Neugebauer keeps the pace from flagging too much." Full Review

Show Showdown

"Perhaps the main way 'Peace for Mary' distinguishes itself is its resolute lack of character growth, bridges mended, open conversations, and the other usual tropes...I am not someone who demands happy endings. But if you're going to ask me to sit through a grueling two hours and forty-five minutes, you've got to give me something. A hint of growth...Reasonably well-written, and the cast is quite good." Full Review

Off Off Online

"Played to perfection by Lois Smith, Mary Frances is willful, loving, selfish, tender, peevish, witty, brutal and all else that make mysteries of our mothers...Neugebauer keeps the pace ebbing and flowing as needed, and the cast’s solid performances are a testament to her work with the actors in developing their characters...One is left wishing that the play’s ending had started the second half so the love/hate relationship that torments the sisters could be resolved." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Directed by the phenomenal Lila Neugebauer, 'Mary Frances' is surrounded by turmoil, and Neugebauer does conflict better than most. Ratchetting up the clashes at every moment she can, this play starts to wear itself down...The play keeps trudging forward towards the end in such a repetitive manner that we start to wish the end would come sooner rather than later...This well-acted but drawn out production needs a bit more concise focus to make it worthy of our attention and time." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"Through Thorne’s first act, her handling of the mounting wreckage is strong. Everything about the increasing strain seems persuasively observed...The cast members are top-notch...Ubiquitous director Lila Neugebauer is the extremely capable referee...Observing how one specific unhappy family copes with the attenuated death-and-dying experience is welcome, although it does overstay that welcome by a few measures." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"Smith has an imperfect vehicle, but she rides it beautifully...The real irony of 'Peace' is that for all the resolve Mary Frances shows in her final decision, the play’s winding second act suggests that Thorne may have been undecided about how to finally wrap things up...Still, Neugebauer keeps the pace brisk and the characters, for all their flaws, sharp. And Smith is a gem...With fine support from her colleagues here, she makes 'Peace' worth the patience it requires." Full Review

Theater Life

"Smith feels completely natural in her discomfort, and her need for finality...Neugebauer mines the emotional depth of these characters, and their relationships...Smith-Cameron is a force of nature, her mere presence radiating a sense of truth, of being in the present...As her crazy sister Fanny, Johanna Day plays a recovering addict who is also manipulative, in an unpredictable, and unsettling way...About the end of life, Lily Throne’s play is unsentimental. And death is relief." Full Review

Boy Culture

"Lois Smith is giving one of the most challenging and dynamic performances I've ever seen from an older actor...It is a nuanced and often witty characterization that is well worth sitting through the show. The show itself is less of a marvel, but it contains stellar performances and is often a queasily accurate depiction of how many of us die...The play is imperfect — it is overlong, it sometimes feels tonally akimbo, and it has a remarkably unsatisfying ending — but there is a lot of truth o... Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"Smith is giving a searing performance...The play provides an especially nasty family portrait, with endless, mean-spirited bickering..Despite the excellent cast and the memorable acting by Smith, Thorne’s drama runs too long, a difficulty Neugebauer can’t solve even with her often piercing staging. One can tire of the infighting and feel that all that needs to be said could be done in a shorter time...There’s only so much of this family that one can or should have to take." Full Review


"The play is an entertaining and often compelling comedy-drama for its first half. It will resonate with so many, especially middle-aged and sandwich-generation folk living through the stress of caring for ailing elders. But like the sharp-tongued old lady at its center, it loses focus not far into the second act...The fine cast under the direction of Lila Neugebauer makes Mary Frances’s family seem very real...Mary Frances remains compelling when she’s present, but the pacing lags." Full Review


"There are times when the acting talent on stage does indeed elevate the effectiveness of the material, but film producer Thorne's first stage play is more of a promising outline of a drama without sufficient embellishments to make it interesting...To its author's credit, 'Peace for Mary Frances' makes seamless glides from its funnier moments of family angst to its more subdued scenes, but the end result is more perfunctory than emotional." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Despite its very real virtues -- not least of which is an unblinking gaze when it comes to its difficult subject -- falls some lengths short of being a real play. Not even a lovingly directed production featuring a fine cast led by the wonderful Lois Smith can entirely paper over this stubborn fact...The director, Lila Neugebauer, handles these materials with supreme delicacy, getting polished performances from her cast." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"It's a situation that…is one many audience members will definitely recognize…All this material plays like an infomercial on…homecare for a loved one…Directed…at a ploddingly naturalistic pace, the episodic play's many scenes slog along…as the conversations hit one expected topic after the other…Since Mary Frances's fate is sealed, all Thorne can do is to gin up tension by stirring family resentments, particularly those related to the sibling rivalry between…Fanny and…Alice." Full Review

The New York Times

“Alice and Fanny’s continuing enactment of a lifelong rivalry for Frances’s love is, in theory, perfectly believable...But they do it so bizarrely and relentlessly throughout the overlong play that you wonder what Thorne wants to show us....Every scene that seemed well-observed on the page felt dreary and obvious when performed, a problem I ascribe not to the actors...but to the mystery of stage time...Staged with uncharacteristic awkwardness by the terrific director Lila Neugebauer." Full Review

Time Out New York

"I never imagined I would spend a whole night hoping Lois Smith would die, but such is the unexpected effect. Smith is not to blame : At 87, the great stage actor is in peak form, and gives a detailed, convincing performance...The situation is rife with potential tension, but first-time playwright Thorne and director Lila Neugebauer can’t seem to locate it. Dramatic events arise and disappear willy-nilly...Most of the play (at least half) seems like dull, episodic flab." Full Review


“Well acted and staged but dramatically flawed play...Smith is still well enough to make any play she's in worth seeing...Woven with these fine actors, the visually attractive stagecraft and Neugebauer in the director's chair, there's no denying that this is a painful, insufficiently engaging and overly long play...While 'Peace For Mary Frances' does come with its own amusing moments, they are overshadowed by the gloomy details pertaining to how Mary is helped to reach that sought for peace." Full Review


"Navigates a head-spinning number of subjects...With an equally unwieldy number of characters...The motivations of many characters are wildly shortchanged...Never stops feeling like a hastily edited version of a longer play...Neugebauer's usually invisible directorial hand is strangely heavy here...A relatable experience for those who've dealt with death firsthand. Thorne's first-produced play holds a clear mirror up to reality. It just forgot that its medium is theater." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“There is an unwieldy amount of information to take in...Part of the problem lies in the fact that there are two storylines here, either of which could support a play on its own...Smith gives us a richly developed character...Neugebauer manages to keep all of the moving parts in motion within the play's overwrought structure, but there so much going on that it feels like we are binge watching a reality TV show that is unfolding in real time.” Full Review

The Wrap

“End of life crises have seldom seemed so endless...Thorne has a fine ear for dialogue, deeply attuned to the way family members can nurse resentments and pick at each other’s scabs to deflect from any self-reflection...But Thorne also weighs down her drama with a lot of circuitous plotting and didactic exposition about the nature of hospice care...We are left without the climactic family confrontation or catharsis for which we’ve been bracing.” Full Review


"Documentary film maker Lily Thorne's first play, 'Peace for Mary Frances' has the ring of truth so that one assumes that it is autobiographical. On the other hand, it has all the faults of a first play: it is too long for its content, attempts to cover everything in one play, and it resembles a screenplay with its countless number of scenes. Given a first-class production by Lila Neugebauer for The New Group, 'Peace for Mary Frances' is ultimately tedious and unsuccessful." Full Review

New York Theater

“An awkward slog of a play that is full of wrong moves — including a little lighthearted Anti-Semitism at its start – and largely wastes the talents of its extraordinary cast...Neugebauer does what she can with the material...There are a few watchable scenes...There are also a few details that, under different circumstances, might be intriguing...But these moments don’t compensate for all that is obvious, irrelevant or annoying.” Full Review

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if you like an intense slice of real-life family drama with phenomenal acting and brutally honest portrayals. A DO NOT MISS PRODUCTION

Don't see it if you are triggered by family crisis involving the lingering death of the matriarch or if you dislike theatre with a decidedly sad demeanor.

Also This is one of those instances where I am going to buck other Show-Sco... Read more Read less

Overall it’s incredible

See it if You like shows that deal with dysfunctional families. If you like August Osage County you will also like this

Don't see it if If you need some of your characters to be good hearted people. Everyone is good and bad but these people are mostly bad

Also I love shows that deal with dysfunctional, messed up and really truly ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if Great cast (not a weak link) Endorsement for a one child family. A must for those of a certain age.

Don't see it if Set and the ensuing sight lines are a problem.. a nice attempt but maybe created with another stage in mind. At times some dialogue is lost

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Intelligent, Great writing, Great acting

See it if Lois Smith is a great actress. The set is perfect and it is realistic. A family dynamics show set around the dying matriarch.

Don't see it if This is a bittersweet show dealing with death and dying. Don't see it if you don't like this subject .

Absorbing, Great acting

See it if New Group assembles famed female-driven cast as only they can. Dying matriarch unravels family. Exceedingly good Smith-Cameron as always.

Don't see it if Dour circumstances in poorly written play. "August Osage" w/ a darker cloud and fewer steps. The female performances shine throughout.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if you enjoy excellent ensemble acting and a quite realistic script

Don't see it if you don't like discussions and portrayals of death

Also An extremely well-written and well-acted play that is slightly depress... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Must see

See it if Incredible performances, great set, very realistic. Life story that touches most people who have experienced loss. Left me with goose bumps

Don't see it if want a musical, can not deal with death or family turmoil.

Relevant, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Slow

See it if For Lois Smith who brings life into play though spending her time trying to die. Interesting view of highly dysfunctional family.

Don't see it if Don't like overly long plays dealing with process of dying & family disfunction. Many scenes superflous & overly drawn out.

Also Mostly very strong actors doing their best with material. There are so... Read more Read less

Insightful, Intelligent, Great acting, Edgy, Informative

See it if you are interested in the best & worst that dying can bring out, specifically in a dysfunctional family; great acting; absorbing.

Don't see it if peace comes slowly for Mary Frances - a little editing would go a long ways. The 2 male characters are weak, but I guess that's the point.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if A raw, true to life exploration of how an elder’s final days affect their entire family. Brilliant performances.

Don't see it if The second act was slow in places.

Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you are looking for a naturalistic, long meditation on death, family, and life.

Don't see it if you are looking for a comedy or something light hearted, or something quicker in run time. This is a longer play.

Great acting, Intense, Absorbing, Too long, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to see excellent performances in a story everyone who has experienced the death of a parent will relate to at some point

Don't see it if You recently lost a loved one and are not ready to rehash what it was like to deal with their death and hospice

Also As many other members’ reviews have said, the first half was excellent... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You like well-acted plays about families in crisis.

Don't see it if You don't want to see a family of pretty unstable, maladjusted adults at a pivotal moment in their lives, portrayed by very good actors.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Quirky

See it if You enjoy well acted family dramas with lots of "in-fighting" like "August in Osage County".

Don't see it if You hate shows with family arguments centered around a dying mother.

Great acting

See it if Lois Smith, J. Smith Cameron and Johanna Day together in a new play is as good reason as any to see this play.

Don't see it if The play is a tad too long with a few loose ends in the narrative.

Great acting, Slow, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You ever had sibling disagreements while caring for an elderly parent. To see Lois Smith as a mother trying to hold her family together.

Don't see it if You dislike slow moving plays that go on long after the main point has been made. Have recently suffered a parental loss.

Also Lois Smith is a 90 year old matriarch facing her final days. The cast ... Read more Read less

Great acting, Edgy, Repetitive

See it if you are a Lois Smith and J-Smith Cameron fan...

Don't see it if you don't like seeing shows that display the fragility of a very emotionally fractured dysfunctional family...

Great acting, Intense, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if you are a fan of good solid acting and like discovering new playwrights.

Don't see it if you are on the brink of caring for a dying parent or just did.

Great acting, Intelligent, Slow, Relevant, Touching

See it if You aren’t truggered by the death of a relative and are comfortable seeing some dysfunctional intergenerational family dynamics

Don't see it if You are triggered by the idea of death and illness in a loved one and seeing the inner workings and dysfunctions among the family members

Also This was a long play and felt long to me, a little stagnant on forward... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Entertaining, Edgy, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You are interested in real life family drama centered around end of life decisions and family issues that surround them

Don't see it if If you like funny upbeat love stories or musicals and do not like serious topics with a lot of profanity

Also This show could have been cut down to 90 minutes, it had a clever set ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You’re okay with “tough” theater. It explores death, addiction, family dysfunction, and end-of-life issues in a challenging absorbing play.

Don't see it if You want a “finished” product. It felt like a work in progress, with several themes left unexplored. But, it stimulated a lot of discussion.

Absorbing, Relevant, Slow, Disappointing, Indulgent

See it if You love Lois Smith and are okay with depressing plays.

Don't see it if A play about a semi-dysfunctional family caring for a family member in hospice would hit way too close to home and be upsetting.

Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Too long

See it if you want to see another great performance by Lois Smith. Play kind of rambles, but the topic is important.

Don't see it if you find plays about dying depressing

Relevant, Slow, Banal

See it if You enjoy plays about sibling relationships and dysfunctional families. The death process interests you. You like Blood Line. and Lois Smith

Don't see it if You've recently lost a loved one or have any family dysfunction. You don't like slow plays.

Entertaining, Slow, Ambitious

See it if If you enjoy disfunctional family dramas and elder care issues or are a fan of Lois Smith

Don't see it if If you want a well developed storyline and belivable characters.

Cast & Creatives (16)