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Open: 03/18/16- Close: 03/26/16 AN INTIMATE EVENING WITH TYPHOID MARY
Reviewed for By: Heather Violanti

A dying man strives for human connection in AN INTIMATE EVENING WITH TYPHOID MARY, a powerful new work created by Glass Bandits Theater Company and presented at the New Ohio Theater. 

In playwright and performer Carl Holder’s 75-minute tour de force, Martin (played by Holder) is dying of an unnamed, painful disease.  The illness has decimated his immune system, as evidenced by the contamination suits worn by the volunteers and student doctors that visit his hospital room.  

Martin passes the time, or perhaps slips into a delirium, by performing a club act in the persona of “Typhoid Mary,” the late eighteenth century Irish immigrant who infected 51 people with typhoid despite never manifesting symptoms herself.  The play’s action weaves in and out of the present and Martin’s memories, imagined through the lens of the “Typhoid Mary” act, replete with improvised songs, finger puppet re-enactments, and audience banter.  Like Mary, Martin came from a large family and moved to a big city in search of adventure.  Like Mary, he worked in the food industry.  (She was a cook; he was a busser).  Like Mary, he felt like an outsider growing up – Mary is seen as odd because she believes she is special; Martin is bullied and abused because he is gay.  Wisely, Holder does not make the parallels absolute, rather, they are scattered similarities that help us understand Martin’s search for meaning.   While we catch glimpses of Martin’s life, we never learn his whole story.  As his persona gradually merges with the character of Typhoid Mary, the line between what is real not real deliberately becomes more blurred.

Director Knud Adams stages the hospital scenes with carefully observed realism, from the brisk kindliness of the nurse (played with compassionate efficiency by Molly Mcadoo) to the condescending heartiness of the attending physician (played by a pitch perfect Justin Kuritzkes).  Martin’s “Typhoid Mary” memories grow increasingly surreal as his symptoms turn worse.  Knud stages these moments with heightened theatricality, culminating in the climatic final tableau.

In all, AN INTIMATE EVENING WITH TYPHOID EVENING is a powerful piece of experimental theatre, riffing on pop culture and history to uncover the extraordinary moments within an ordinary life.

The New Ohio Theater : 154 Christopher Street