Mary Brigit Poppleton is Writing a Memoir
nytheatre.com review by Gyda Arber
August 11, 2007
Mary Brigit Poppleton has a dilemma. Like many teenagers growing up in big families, her family barely acknowledges her existence. In a desperate bid for attention, she announces to her family that she's pregnant, which certainly gets the desired reaction but also creates a whole host of problems—how can Mary Brigit avoid neo-natal visits, trips to the Catholic family planning center, and, most importantly, find someone to pose as her fictional baby's father? Mary Brigit chronicles her journey by writing a memoir. This adorable coming-of-age story travels from Ohio to Long Island and back, through a host of kooky characters, as Mary Brigit discovers that sometimes it is okay to just be yourself.
Playwright Madeline Walter has a flair for comedy that director Heidi Handelsman exploits fully. The cast keeps the audience laughing, nearly non-stop, at their silly antics (as Mary Brigit struggles with the pressures of underage drinking at a beach party, the rest of the cast shouts "Wave!" and chugs when each successive wave hits the shore). The talented ensemble creates a host of stereotypical characters, from obnoxious businessmen to gentle anger management councilors, that would be right at home on a Saturday Night Live broadcast. The play isn't all laughs, though, especially in the second act. As Mary Brigit struggles with the consequences of the spiral of lies she's told, we are treated to a truly poignant scene between Mary Brigit and her would-be baby's father.
The cast is excellent. Allison Altman grounds the cast as the title character, and although first-rate work is done by all, stand-outs include Doug Roland as the most-likely candidate for fatherhood, Russell Johnson as Mary Brigit's bible-thumping brother and an unbearable businessman, Patrick Vaill in all of his many small roles, Julie Marcus as the family planning councilor, and Isaiah Tannenbaum as Mary Brigit's geeky best friend and as a cocky frat-boy type. The creative team has made the most of the limits of the FringeNYC festival, with bright rolling tables that make up most of the set and very effective costumes, lighting, and sound.
By the end of the show, one can't help but have fallen in love with the charming Mary Brigit and the world she inhabits. Though Mary Brigit herself may not think her life is very interesting, I'm sure the audience (at least at the performance I saw) would beg to differ.