written by Carina Abbaticchio, Literary and Public Programs Intern
“They appear more often now…” begins Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary. Who are they? We never see them onstage, nor does Mary define them by name or occupation, but they are a constant presence in the world of this play. With the help of David Chack (Artistic Director of ShPIeL-Performing Identity and Professor in Jewish and Holocaust Theatre at DePaul University), the audience engaged in a lively conversation about who these men might be in a special Afterwords discussion on the intersection between Christianity and Judaism.
One audience member pointed out Mary’s anger towards these men and the pressure she faces from them to continue to relive the painful memories of her son’s death. Their questioning and their presence in her life provide the motor for the play. They antagonize her into silence, into a world where she no longer wishes to have dreams, out of fear that those dreams may be misconstrued.
So who are these men? Are they new Christians? Followers of Jesus? Those who would go on to write the Gospel? These were all ideas that the audience posed, although they agreed that Colm Tóibín purposely leaves their identities open to interpretation.
But the identity of these men is just one of many questions left unanswered. One of the largest questions surrounds the necessity of Jesus’s suffering. When Mary is told by these men that Jesus had to suffer so the world could be saved, she responds, “Saved? Who has been saved? Is that what this was for?” David pointed out the distinct Jewishness of Mary’s response – her interrogation of what they were telling her – her unwillingness to swallow their answers easily.
As we continue to explore the piece with different audiences and panelists through our Public Programs, it will be exciting to see this conversation continue.