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Dead Shot Mary

From 13 critic and 11 member reviews
Members say: Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining, Enchanting

About the show

R&R Productions presents a new, one-woman history play about the legend of police officer Mary Shanley: a trail blazer, a maverick, and a true New York original. More…

A pioneer for females in law enforcement, Mary Shanley joined the NYPD in 1931, quickly becoming a Gotham all-star and tabloid sensation. Making a staggering 1,000 career arrests, she became the fourth woman in history to make Detective First Grade—and then nearly lost it all.

Stage Buddy

"Rachel McPhee gives a remarkable and transcendent performance as Mary Shanley...The script is both thoughtful and relevant...Director Stephen Kaliski was certainly handed a gift with the talent he had in McPhee, and he makes excellent use of her abilities...'Dead Shot Mary' is fascinating, entertaining and even funny in moments, while also being absolutely riveting and moving. This is 'must-see' theater at its best." Full Review


“This one-woman show provides a thorough picture of what the police force was like back in the 1930’s and what was expected from the officers. Rachel McPhee delivers a captivating and heartfelt performance. She is candid and comical in her accounts of life as an undercover cop, having to camouflage her greatest accessory – her gun – when she was on assignment. Required to use her wit, intelligence, and resilience while on the job, Shanley made over 1,000 arrests in her 30-year c... Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"The playwright has done a splendid job of capturing her life, and Ms. McPhee's performance is spot-on, including the perfectly intoned New York City working class speech patterns and rhythms she uses. Under Stephen Kaliski's direction, she is constantly in motion, taking us with her as she reenacts some of her exploits...All of the elements come together to paint a perfect portrait of this ordinary and yet remarkable woman." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Attention Acting Aficionados: Hie yourselves to The Bridge Theatre at Shetler Studios to see 'Dead Shot Mary.' Rachel McPhee’s bravura performance as Mary is not to be missed...The innovative play was written by Robert K. Benson; the skillful director is Stephen Kaliski...There’s no explanation as to why she doesn’t connect with other people...A longer work would permit more examination of specifics that illustrate the why of our sense of Mary’s aloneness." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"The captivating and must-see life story of a New York hero you’ve never heard of...Performed with finespun gusto by Rachel McPhee...There are moments when Shanley feels a bit cartoonish, but McPhee's performance is so delightful minor faults are easy to forgive...Kaliski makes wonderful use of the stage and of Kyu Shin's set design...'Dead Shot Mary' is a must-see for history buffs and gender studies experts alike." Full Review


"The piece effortlessly moves us through Mary's life without any conscious sense of time passing...While the play feels unstructured at first, the story slowly knits together until we find ourselves waiting with bated breath to find out how it ends. That effect is the result of an extraordinary performance by Rachel McPhee, whose remarkable vulnerability onstage excuses every one of Mary's imperfections...McPhee's Mary Shanley is as complex as she is deeply relatable." Full Review

Plays to See

"These tales of arrests, gunplay, and gallantry are clearly ancillary to the central theme of this compelling, heartrending account of a life coming unraveled. The ebb and flow of Detective Shanley’s emotional crisis is well rendered in the imaginative script, and commendably delivered in a very skilled performance by veteran actor Rachel McPhee. The theater is small and cramped, but this hardly distracts from a profoundly absorbing and stimulating experience." Full Review

Theater In The Now

"Benson's exploration dives deeper than the surface. The content within his text is engaging. But the conceit is a bit muddled…Despite being an inactive narrative, Stephen Kaliski found a way to bring variety into his staging…’Dead Shot Mary' is a special show. When you find an actress who can embody the real person, it’s as if you’ve struck gold. Rachel McPhee was that…It may not be perfect but if you’re interested in a refreshing solo piece, take a trip to see 'Dead Shot Mary.'" Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"McPhee’s performance works best when she portrays Mary’s emotional and psychological vulnerabilities and talks to us, not at us; she’s certainly got the stuff to embody Mary’s iron handedness, but she works too hard at it, pushing the toughness and affecting the kind of stagey Nu Yawk accent you learn from dialect books...Too often Mary seems less an organic creation than a costume McPhee’s put on." Full Review

Ethan Kanfer: New York Theater Reviews

"McPhee handles the period accent skillfully and disappears into the part. Both commanding and likable, she carries the audience confidently through the ups and downs of Mary’s life. As a play, though, 'Dead Shot Mary' leaves a few too many questions unanswered. Benson and director Stephen Kaliski are less surefooted when it comes to the more personal aspects the story...'Dead Shot Mary' has its heart in the right place, but its creators need to take more decisive aim at their targets." Full Review

The New York Times

"Rachel McPhee, who plays Ms. Shanley in this solo show, is very personable and entertainingly physical. Her chosen accent, though, is strangely focused on one vowel sound: the one in goil...The script gives us only the outline of a life...If only the playwright or Stephen Kaliski, the director, could help us know whether we’re meant to feel sorry for Ms. Shanley as a lonely victim of sexism and for working undercover, or happy that she’s so darned good at her job." Full Review

Village Voice

"I can't say I recommend 'Dead Shot Mary'...It drags terribly, even given its scant hour-long running time, and the text flails like a tackled pickpocket. But Rachel McPhee's brassy performance has a quality of uninhibited glee that gladdens an otherwise difficult experience...If the fiction were a sustained effort, we might follow Benson's invention, but his dramatic structure hopscotches across years and locations without much transition. Happily, McPhee's enthusiasm carries her through." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"The idea of Shanley as a feminist pioneer who pays the price for independence would have gotten more traction if she were a more compelling character. Benson's portrait tends toward the maudlin...Rachel McPhee does her level best to endow Mary with plenty of New York attitude in a performance that, under the direction of Stephen Kaliski, may be scaled a little too broadly for the theatre's tiny footprint...'Dead Shot Mary' aims and misses the mark." Full Review

Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Riveting, Intense

See it if you like strong women

Don't see it if you are under 14

Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if you are interested in a fascinating character study driven by a historical figure. Also a fun, engaging way to learn something new.

Don't see it if you struggle with one-performer pieces. It's a solid one-woman show, but not everyone likes to engage their imagination in that way.

Absorbing, Enchanting, Great acting, Funny, Intelligent

See it if Rachel McPhee completely owns the small Shetler Bridge theater, bringing the story of Mary Shanley to life with humor and grace

Don't see it if You can't stand solo performances or if you hate women

Great acting, Entertaining, Confusing, Thought-provoking, Intelligent

See it if You enjoy learning about obscure New York historical figures

Don't see it if You don't like leaving with more questions than answers.

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant

See it if You are a play lover, and appreciate seeing something that asks a lot of questions and makes you think. Also if you are pro-women!

Don't see it if You like more pomp and circumstance in your theater. Or if need to have everything figured out at the conclusion.

Absorbing, Enchanting, Entertaining, Great acting, Masterful

See it if you enjoy original stories, historical drama, and strong female characters!

Don't see it if you don't like solo shows.

Absorbing, Resonant, Hilarious, Great acting

See it if You love great acting and would love to fall for an NYC legend that has been too long forgotten.

Don't see it if Your a pickpocket...

Enchanting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Clever

See it if you like fantastically acted and well-researched, engaging theater!

Don't see it if you are a robot!

During previews
Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intense

See it if you enjoy a really intense, well done performance & a really interesting character study.

Don't see it if your looking for something light or showy.

During previews
Original, Intelligent

See it if you love learning history tidbits of NYC. See it if you are a woman, or believe in women's capabilities, or need a reminder of them. We rank

Don't see it if you need a lot of razzle dazzle

During previews
Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Masterful

See it if You enjoy great acting, clever character-driven solo performance, and like a little herstory with your evening of entertainment.

Don't see it if Dislike short shows or are envious of great accent/dialect work.

Cast & Creatives (7)