Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary, Boston (theatre, puppet design)


Who's Afraid of the Virgin Mary?, puppet design, ©2003 Marsian De Lellis
Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary?, puppet design, ©2003 Marsian De Lellis

From December 4th 2003 – December 27th, 2003, I performed in Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary with The Gold Dust Orphans at Machine (a.k.a. Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts) in Boston. Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary was an adaptation of Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  written by Ryan Landry and directed by James P. Byrne. In Virgin Mary, Mary and Joseph’s quarelling escalates when pagans, Nick Kringle and his wife, Honey Frost, set up shop in Jeruselum. While Joseph is threatened by Nick, Mary is set on seducing him. For this production, I designed, built, and activated barnyard puppets for Mary and Joseph’s manger and performed a nativity scene flashback with Barbie dolls.

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I collaborated with The Gold Dust Orphans from 2003-2004. Founded in 1995 by writer/performer Ryan Landry with Scott Martino, Afrodite, and Billy Hough, The Orphans is a drag theater company based in Boston and Provincetown, Massachusetts. Landry’s plays are smart and funny adaptations of film, theatre and pop culture.  With the Orphans, I worked on Pussy on the House, Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary, and The Gulls.

Who's Afraid of The Virgin Mary, 2003


December 16, 2003, The Boston Globe (below)

December 11, 2003, Bay Windows
“As a special touch, Providence-based puppeteer, The Marsian, contributed playful puppets to illustrate Mary and Joseph’s long journey to Bethlehem”

December 17, 2003, The Weekly Dig
“making the ridiculous insane in the best sense”
The Barbie Doll nativity scene alone is worth the ticket price”

December 16, 2003, The Boston Herald
“delightful puppetry”

December 12, 2003 – The Edge
“dead funny puppeteering”

December, 2003 – Theatre Mirror
the most startling entrance by a pig in years.”

Who's Afraid of the Virgin Mary, 2003

From This ‘Virgin Mary’ is a sacrilegious smash, by Ryan McKittrick, in the Boston Globe, December 16th, 2003:

“I didn’t plan on being Madonna,” quips Ryan Landry as his character remembers the Annunciation in “Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary?” A blasphemous melange of yuletide lore and Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” Landry’s delightful

Christmastime spoof turns Joseph and Mary’s stable into a bastion of debauchery and denial. Clashing modern with ancient, Landry fuses the holiest of couples with Albee’s infamous, self- destructive duo, George and Martha.

From the moment Landry makes his grand entrance through the audience, it’s clear you’re in for anything but a silent night. With a cigarette in one hand and a box of Chinese takeout in the other, Landry’s Mary looks like a Nativity- scene dropout. Crossing Albee’s crass, soused Martha with the Holy Mother has produced an outrageously grotesque creation: a tattooed, bitter mama with bulging biceps who demands a drink before she can talk about the virgin birth.

Landry has wrapped his dialogue like a string of flashing Christmas-tree lights around Albee’s play. Audience members who know “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” will chuckle at Landry’s clever riffs on the original script. But even if you aren’t familiar with Albee’s play, the campy epigrams and irreverent blend of the domestic and the divine will keep you entertained.

As in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” Mary and Joseph’s quarreling is fueled by the arrival of two guests. Pagans Nick Kringle and his wife, Honey Frost, have landed their sleigh in the Holy Land to establish a market for themselves. Joseph feels threatened by Saint Nick, not only because he fears his legend will be eclipsed but also because Mary, having changed into her Catholic school uniform, seems set on seducing Santa.

Bill Mootos plays Kringle, a frustrated husband with a weakness for hors d’oeuvres and a penchant for elves. As Frost, Penny Champagne doesn’t have the kick she had in the recent production of “The Gulls,” Landry’s spin on Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” There’s less for Champagne to work with in this script, but she gives a practiced performance as the demure wife who secretly likes to watch her husband working with his little helpers. Larry Coen is solid as Joseph, although he bears the burden of playing the straight man in some scenes.

The comic momentum wanes toward the end of the second act, when the dialogue with Albee’s play becomes more serious and Landry begins peeling away the layers of parody to focus on Mary’s struggle with her son’s crucifixion. The production doesn’t support this transition in tone, though some audience members may appreciate the playwright’s attempt to find a more serious grounding for the piece.

Still, the production is a triumph of sacrilegious holiday pageantry, and Landry’s stellar performance as Mary is as compelling as Elizabeth Taylor’s Martha in the 1966 film. Landry and his troupe won’t be back in Boston until next fall, so you’ll need to catch them before the end of the month.