Jackie Sibblies Drury has taken a shredder to the sacred Great Person biodrama and let the pieces fall like confetti.
In “Marys Seacole,” her breathless and radiant new play, the title character is indeed just the sort of worthy soul who qualifies for an inspirational story of uplift. Her name, to be exact, is Mary Seacole. (We’ll get to the additional S of the title later). Born in 1805, she was a pioneering, Jamaican-born nurse — and hotelier and world traveler — of mixed race, and was noted for her tireless work on the battlefields of the Crimean War.
She dared to cross oceans and race lines, and wrote a juicy, self-celebrating memoir, “Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands.” A statue of her now stands nobly before St. Thomas’s Hospital in London.
“Marys Seacole,” which opened on Monday night at the Claire Tow Theater, in a Lincoln Center Theater production, includes the obligatory elements for a crowd-pleasing portrait of such a life. Childhood hardship, Freudian conflict with a parent that propels her forward, confrontations with haughty authority figures (including Florence Nightingale), scenes of perilous action, an assessment of her enduring legacy — these are all present and accounted for.
But for Ms. Drury, narrative conventions are made to be poked, probed and ultimately exploded, the better to understand just how unreliable they are. Her 2012 play, “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation …,” about genocide in a German colony in Africa, presciently examined issues of cultural appropriation and representation in history through metatheatrical game-playing.
And in last year’s brilliant “Fairview” at SoHo Rep, Ms. Drury mercilessly dissolved the lines between theatergoers and performers to explore how white audiences look at black lives. (For those who missed one of the most significant and thought-churning plays of recent years, it comes to Theater for a New Audience in June.)
“Marys Seacole,” which is directed with head-spinning velocity and shape-shifting flair by Lileana Blain-Cruz, turns chronology inside out, erasing distinctions between past and present that make progress, on some levels, feel like a myth. At the same time, the play scrambles our notions of sacrifice and selfishness, as they apply to the cherished perception of women as caregivers.
This blurring is applied not only to nurses and healers, like Seacole and her latter-day avatars, but also to mothers, daughters, nannies and female mentors of all stripes. In the process, the solid lines that define an indomitable identity start to disappear as well. There’s a reason an S is attached to Mary’s name in the title.
Not that “Marys Seacole” doesn’t have a commanding actress to embody the original of the self-made woman at its center. On the contrary, it’s hard to imagine an actress more delightfully intimidating in the part than the fabulous Quincy Tyler Bernstine, with her gaze of fire and spine of steel.
We first see her in Victorian regalia, perched like a marble-cast hero on a monument, as she sweeps the audience with eyes that feel unnervingly omniscient. She recites from her autobiography with a Jamaican lilt and a disciplinarian’s glare that dares you not to pay attention.
But listen closely to the silence that surrounds certain words. Those are nothing more nor less than forms of the first person singular — “I,” “me,” “myself” — which are preceded and followed by oceanic pauses. (As in “I” — beat — “am a Creole.” Or: “I” — longer beat — “gave myself power.”)
Such emphasis suggests extraordinary self-assurance. Or is it the self-doubt that comes from the need for such assertion? Neither inference is incorrect.
In any case, those pauses are large enough for a myriad other Marys to swim through into existence. And with a mutability that never betrays an abiding common core, Ms. Bernstine turns into contemporary variations on the stern but solicitous caregiver: a nurse in a geriatric ward, a nanny on a playground.
But even as plain Mary Seacole (which isn’t plain at all), Ms. Bernstine is in touch with the possibilities of other times, other places and other people she might be. Early in the show, a tall, austere, older woman in black (Karen Kandel) slips a telephone earpiece beneath Seacole’s wig.
The phone rings often in the subsequent scenes. Seacole’s past is calling her. And though it often results in dropped calls, Ms. Kandel’s character, identified as Duppy Mary (who turns out be Seacole’s censorious mother) will eventually get through for a blistering moment of reckoning.
The other dramatis personae, given similar-sounding names (Mamie, May, Merry, Miriam), become women of different times and places, and are entertainingly embodied by Gabby Beans, Lucy Taylor, Marceline Hugot and Ismenia Mendes.
Like Ms. Bernstine, these actresses shift between 19th- and 21st-century attire to enact scenes that echo one another across history. (Kaye Voyce did the quick-change costumes, and Mariana Sanchez’s set morphs from what appears to be a modern, pink-walled hospital into the Jamaica of Seacole’s childhood and, hilariously gruesome, a bloody Crimean battlefield.)
Some of these vignettes emphasize the abiding gap between white women and the black women they employ, exploit and dismiss. Others stress the shared status of women as they relate, with ambivalence, to their friends and family members of the same gender.
Individually, there’s nothing strikingly original in most of these scenes. A stressed, young white mother patronizingly tries to connect with black child-minders in a park; a mother and her teenage daughter bicker over the care of the older woman’s infirm mother, revealing the narcissism of each.
Seen collectively, though, they become a dazzling hall of mirrors. World history starts to feel like one big funhouse in which the same games, distortions and deceptions — including, and especially, self-deceptions — are practiced again and again. And contrary to what self-help books like to tell us, no one is ultimately in charge of their own narrative.
That includes even the formidable Seacole, despite her undeniable achievements and her matching skills as a fabulist. At one point, she suddenly finds herself lip-syncing to a recording of the pop classic “I’m Every Woman.”
As pricelessly rendered by Ms. Bernstine, our redoubtable heroine doesn’t look altogether comfortable with these lyrics that have been thrust upon her. But what choice does she have?
In the unsettled landscape of “Marys Seacole,” individual ego doesn’t stand a chance against the crushing flux of history. And Ms. Drury gloriously confirms her status as a playwright for whom the long view is disturbingly, divertingly and endlessly kaleidoscopic.B:
【我】【把】【自】【己】【伪】【装】【成】【十】【恶】【不】【赦】【的】【老】【虎】，【是】【不】【想】【让】【你】【看】【到】【我】【内】【心】【的】【柔】【弱】，【我】【对】【这】【个】【世】【界】【充】【满】【了】【怨】【恨】，【却】【唯】【独】【对】【你】，【保】【留】【着】【人】【性】【本】【能】【的】【温】【柔】【与】【善】【良】！ ——*** “【老】【话】！【你】【快】【来】！”【一】【大】【清】【早】【话】【唠】【烬】【就】【听】【到】【小】【美】【人】【儿】【对】【他】【的】【呼】【唤】，【也】【不】【知】【道】【她】【哪】【里】【来】【的】【这】【么】【大】【的】【精】【力】。 “【干】【嘛】！？”【话】【唠】【烬】【顺】【着】【地】【图】【上】【的】【绿】【点】【找】【了】【过】
【上】【帝】【关】【上】【了】【一】【扇】【门】，【起】【码】【会】【给】【人】【留】【下】【一】【扇】【窗】【户】。 【顾】【四】【爷】【在】【记】【仇】【方】【便】【也】【是】【极】【为】【出】【色】【的】。 【锦】【衣】【卫】【指】【挥】【使】【有】【点】【明】【白】【隆】【庆】【帝】【为】【何】【会】【喜】【欢】【甚】【至】【欣】【赏】【顾】【湛】【了】。 【诚】【然】【他】【身】【上】【有】【着】【种】【种】【看】【似】【纨】【绔】【子】【弟】【的】【荒】【唐】【缺】【点】。 【可】【是】【顾】【四】【爷】【每】【每】【都】【给】【人】【惊】【喜】。 【说】【出】【去】【的】【话】【还】【挺】【有】【道】【理】【的】。 【锦】【衣】【卫】【指】【挥】【使】【说】【道】：“【陛】【下】【着】【实】【有】【意】
【章】【宁】【连】【忙】【投】【降】，“【好】【好】【好】，【我】【错】【了】【行】【了】【吧】？” “【章】【小】【姐】？” 【正】【在】【打】【闹】【的】【章】【宁】【和】【苏】【薇】【一】【下】【子】【愣】【住】【了】，【本】【来】【对】【这】【里】【还】【有】【人】【的】【事】【情】【并】【没】【抱】【有】【希】【望】，【可】【没】【想】【到】【真】【的】【还】【有】【人】【认】【识】【章】【宁】。【章】【宁】【转】【头】【看】【着】【一】【位】【身】【形】【有】【些】【弯】【曲】【弓】【背】【的】【老】【人】，【手】【里】【拿】【着】【锄】【头】【和】【洒】【水】【壶】【之】【类】【的】【工】【具】。【这】【是】……【章】【宁】【脑】【海】【里】【回】【想】【着】【这】【个】【熟】【悉】【的】【身】【影】，“【您】霸刀客网址【不】【过】【片】【刻】，【这】【牢】【里】【边】【儿】【就】【剩】【下】【金】【知】【县】，【林】【致】【和】【白】【公】【子】【三】【人】。 【就】【算】【牢】【里】【只】【剩】【他】【们】【三】【人】，【金】【知】【县】【还】【是】【谨】【慎】【的】【看】【了】【看】【四】【周】，【见】【确】【保】【无】【误】，【一】【撩】【衣】【袍】，【扑】【通】【一】【声】【便】【跪】【在】【了】【干】【草】【上】。 “【属】【下】【参】【见】【尊】【主】，【尊】【主】【万】【福】，【小】【人】【有】【眼】【不】【识】【泰】【山】，【竟】【冒】【犯】【了】【尊】【主】【大】【人】，【万】【望】【尊】【主】【赎】【罪】！” 【林】【致】【垂】【下】【眼】【眸】，【乖】【乖】【的】【附】【在】【白】【公】【子】【肩】【膀】【上】
【男】【人】【走】【到】【了】【书】【房】，【直】【接】【打】【开】【了】【电】【脑】【探】【查】【了】【一】【番】，【等】【看】【到】【了】【眼】【前】【摆】【放】【的】【图】【案】【时】，【脸】【色】【明】【显】【变】【了】【变】。“【宫】【家】【特】【有】【的】【印】【记】。【难】【道】【与】【小】【丫】【头】【有】【什】【么】【关】【系】。” 【肖】【柯】【没】【有】【记】【错】【的】【话】，【小】【时】【候】，【就】【见】【过】【糖】【糖】【小】【丫】【头】【左】【胸】【口】【有】【一】【个】【印】【记】，【不】【过】【当】【时】【太】【小】【了】，【根】【本】【看】【不】【清】【楚】【是】【什】【么】。【当】【时】【因】【为】【不】【小】【心】【看】【到】【了】，【还】【被】【父】【亲】【打】【了】【一】【顿】。 【这】