a family drama about the search for the meaning of life
American playwright Tracy Letts, who is also an excellent actor, is certainly the strongest heir to the great tradition of American family dramas represented by names such as Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee. One of his latest plays (from 2016), Mary Page Marlowe, tells the story of the extraordinary life of an ordinary American woman, a story about the moments in life one remembers (or doesn´t remember) in retrospect.
Everything starts with the efforts of a forty-five-year-old mother to explain to her children why she is getting divorced – and eleven acts follow in which we watch Mary at different ages, from when she was a ten-month-old baby in a cradle up to when she is a seventy-year-old woman waiting to die in hospital. The author asks us in an exceptionally powerful way: “How come this uncompromising, confident and attractive woman didn´t live the life she wanted?” And above all, he keeps us in suspense about what Mary Page really is like. Is she good or bad? Happy or unhappy? Beloved or betrayed? Loving or betraying? A victim or a culprit? The extraordinary work thus unobtrusively demonstrates how complicated and ambiguous a seemingly ordinary human life story can be, as well as how different a single person can be at different stages of their life. As Charles Isherwood, a New York Times reviewer, aptly wrote in his enthusiastic review: “The form of the play seems beautiful and touching to me, as if you were flipping through your friend´s photo album. Some faces seem familiar, others unexpected. And then you come across someone completely unknown – a person who seems to have meant a lot to your friend – and you will realize with sadness that you will always know your loved ones only in fragments and incompletely.”