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Atlas Performing Arts Center: Sprenger
Remaining Performances (tickets available here):
Thursday, July 16 at 7:45 p.m. Saturday, July 18 at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 22 at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 26 at 12 p.m.
They Say: Based on a true story, Mary is committed to Philadelphia’s only institution for the insane in the basement of Pennsylvania Hospital in 1790. Wife of the affluent Stephen Girard, we learn just what it takes to be labeled — and become — insane.
Gabi’s Take: A transcendent twist to Lanie Robertson’s classic, The Wandering Theatre Company‘s The Insanity of Mary Girard boasts powerfully convincing performances — the cast successfully captures the horrors of realizing one’s own descent into madness.
Mary Girard (Eliza Hill) learns that her resentful and jealous husband, Stephen (Timothy Bell), has admitted her into an asylum after he suspects that she has been unfaithful. Hill beautifully depicts Mrs. Girard’s desperation — from subtle quivers in her voice to intensely stark hopelessness permeating in her eyes. We’re transported into this troubling reality right alongside Hill through her remarkable performance.
With lithe, insidious, and synchronized precision, the Five Furies (played by Vincent Joseph Donato, Madeline Hickman, Nancy Ellen Reinstein, Lauren Smith, and Russell Norris) allow their bodies to serve as a vessel of expression — each movement is measured, calculated, and captivating. I was very impressed by the fluidity: Each of the Five Furies finish each others’ sentences as they taunt and torment Mrs. Girard. The play doesn’t have a chance to lose momentum, as the performances of the asylum’s three admitted patients (played by Gareth Balai, Monica Lerch, and Camilla Skalski) are similarly gripping.
The ominous buildup is aided by the impressive use of lighting and staging. Each sequence and scene is enhanced by the seamless lighting transitions and cleverly envisioned wardrobe — the chilling blackbird masks are handed off with effortless continuity as the Five Furies transform into one of Mary’s various visions.
The only cause for pause would be the heavy-handed insertions of the tired “marriage is a business transaction” plugs, which don’t really allow the audience to arrive at that conclusion on their own. Sure, we love clues to overarching themes, but the messaging here felt clunky, repetitive, and distracting.
Director Natalie Villamonte Zito invites viewers to explore the boundless corridors of the human mind in a way that will leave you horrified as much as you are mesmerized. Thoughtfully and eerily, Zito creates an ominous voyeuristic experience. We are watching the world of a woman unraveling in front of our eyes, and we can almost see ourselves in her predicament. A hauntingly beautiful performance relies heavily on whether or not audience members go home actually feeling, well, haunted. And on that front, Zito has emerged victorious.
See it if: You’re ready to keep the light on at night.
Skip it if: You’d rather get in your Snuggie and watch American Horror Story.