On December 16, 2003, The Boston Herald characterized my work in Ryan Landry’s Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary? as “delightful puppetry”.
From the Boston Herald, December 16, 2003 – Theater Review “Landry’s wit, insight make ‘Virgin Mary’ divine comedy” by Terry Byrne:
“Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary?” presented by the Gold Dust Orphans at Machine, Boston, through Dec. 27.
Leave it to outrageous playwright and performer Ryan Landry to make the connection between Edward Albee’s caustic couple George and Martha (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”) and the holy couple Mary and Joseph. In his inspired “Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary?” Landry ably mixes his in-your-face comedy with subtle comments on the struggle of faith vs. commercialism in the holiday season.
Inside the manger (“Actually,” corrects Joseph, “it’s a creche”) we meet the dissolute mother of Christ (Landry) and her long-suffering husband, Joe (Larry Coen). Though it’s Christmas Eve and they’ve just gotten back from midnight Mass, they’ve invited a cute young couple over for a nightcap. Nick (Bill Mootos) and Honey Kringle (Penny Champayne in a hilarious miniskirt and high heels) are just starting out in their marriage and careers, and they reveal both their ambitions and their naivete in their verbal sparring with Mary and Joe.
Landry has raised the bar for his own writing by effectively weaving Albee’s story line and dialogue into a larger idea about a conflict bigger than the resentments Mary and Joe air after several cocktails. He tones down some of Albee’s most bitter exchanges to create space for exploring Nick’s past and his “marketing strategy” for commercializing Christmas.
Director James P. Byrne creates a terrific flow from scene to scene, making sure to integrate some outrageous stuffed animals (and animal jokes, of course). With Christmas candles at the ready (when the electricity goes out) and some delightful puppetry, Landry hits all the comedy marks you’d expect from a guy whose credits include the spoofs “sCarrie,” “The Gulls” and “The Bunny Trail.” But he leaves plenty of room for his more serious theme.
Landry has also upped the ante by casting Equity actors for the first time: Mootos and Coen. Mootos is appropriately awkward as Kringle confesses that his childhood, and the debt he owes to the elves, has l ed him to his current career, and Coen deftly plays Joe with a perfect poker face. When Joe cleverly suggests Kringle deals with the occult and then labels him a “capitalist cowboy,” Coen underplays it so well that Kringle is left squirming. When Mary tries to suggest Mr. and Mrs. Kringle are simply missionaries, Joe calls them “Yuletide trash,” letting us know where his loyalties lie despite the family bickering.
The play is loaded with lots of clever comic touches, including a brief segue into “A Christmas Carol” and a jab at PBS’ fund-raising efforts. But it’s Landry’s ability to balance comedy with his more serious side that makes “Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary?” his best production yet.