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Crazy Mary (2007)

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Michael Esper, Mitchell Greenberg and Kristine Nielsen

Play by A.R. Gurney

Directed by Jim Simpson

Mainstage Theater

Playwrights Horizons


Nursing rating 2 stars
Artistic rating 3 1/2 stars

This is a wonderful play, the entire cast is superb, and the directorial hand is perfect--almost. The play takes place in a private psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts and concerns a long term patient, her distant cousin who is now the Trustee of her estate but is "hungry" for the money, the patient's son, a psychiatrist, and a nurse. All parts are played beautifully by Sigourney Weaver (below), Kristine Nielsen, Michael Esper, Mitchell Greenberg, and Myra Lucretia Taylor (right).

My concern is the part of Pearl the nurse. Ms. Taylor played her beautifully, though the southern accent goes on and off during the play. The play's dialogue tells us that Pearl is a consummate professional, but at times the portrayal is stereotypical. Periodically the character seems to be conceived more as a traditional southern "mammy" or nanny, like the famous Hattie McDaniel portrayal in Gone with the Wind, rather than as a registered nurse. The hospital is roughly fashioned on one of the private psychiatric hospitals in Boston or Stockbridge. I know these places and know therefore that the portrayal is a real misfit and that it is demeaning to the character of Pearl.

This portrayal is even more troubling because the play is set in the present day, not in some long past era before the professionalization of nursing by Florence Nightingale and those who followed her really took hold. As parts of the play seem to recognize, modern psychiatric nurses are skilled professionals who autonomously diagnose and intervene to address psychological illness.

Ms. Taylor is a marvelous actress and could play the part in any way the director wished. I would think that she and most nurses, regardless of race, would take exception to this depiction. A small change would work here.

Review by Claire Fagin, RN, PhD, FAAN
Dean Emerita, University of Pennsylvania
Reviewed May 19, 2007

The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board Members or Advisory Panel of The Truth About Nursing.

The play runs May 11 - June 17, 2007 at Mainstage Theater. Click here for more information.

You can write to the director at:

Mr. Jim Simpson
Director, Crazy Mary
Playwrights Horizon
416 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036

Please send a copy of your letter to us at Thank you.


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