For Mrs. Mayfield’s Fifth-Grade Class of ’93 20-Year Reunion (June 2013):
“I really can’t recommend this play enough — and at $18 it’s an absolute bargain — as it will likely be a highlight of your theatrical year.
Grab a few friends, hop on the N train and go see this immersive play where you can voyeuristically intrude on one of the most ridiculous and absurd house parties you’ll ever go to…Just like at the end of your real school reunions, you’ll be happy you went…It’s a great experience, as you can completely ignore social protocol and shove your nose in conversations you find interesting, and leave mid-sentence once you’ve gotten bored. If only all house parties had these rules!…It’s pretty hilarious…The experience of being a close-up spectator in this Astoria apartment with such a bunch of misfits is wonderful, delightful and will give you plenty to chat about on the potentially long subway ride back home.”
–Theatre Is Easy
“Not too many times have I had the opportunity to attend a play in which as much input is expected from the audience as is given by the actors. Playwright Mariah MacCarthy’s off-off Broadway play Mrs. Mayfield’s Fifth-Grade Class of ’93 20-Year Reunion goes beyond interactive. The total immersion one experiences at the apartment in Queens where the play takes place may seem off-putting and awkward at first, but the result is a surprising sense of having been in a place transformed by theatre…
The truly memorable performances came from Lindsey Austen, who plays Robin, Amanda’s best friend and former bullied fifth grader at the hands of Crystal (formerly Chris) played by the energetic Lauren Hennessy. Jesse Geguzis plays the sweet, but not-all-there Jamie and does an excellent job interacting with the audience, asking questions and playing Jenga while never letting up his painfully honest and superficially innocent persona.
Mrs. Mayfield is one of the most fun theatre experiences I’ve ever had…leaves the audience with the sense that the whole world truly is a stage worth experiencing.”
“It was the most “real to life” theatrical experience I’ve ever seen and it raised the bar for what theater can be…If you wish your theatre-going experience was more like a house party and less like a sacramental ceremony this show is for you…The environment was so engaging…I appreciated the intimately cozy quarters because it made it easy to catch the various sub-plots…That is not too say that I didn’t get lost into meaningful improvised conversations with the cast members, because I certainly did. The freedom of those moments is what made the work exciting…Riddled with hilariously awkward moments.”
–Show Business Weekly
“Director Leta Tremblay…does an excellent job managing its fluid timing and structure. Ms. MacCarthy is well on her way to developing a reputation for nuanced, unflinching depictions of characters still too often sidelined on the stage and elsewhere…Some crazy stuff happens. More, in fact, than at any party I’ve ever been to (at least that I can remember)…[Lauren] Hennessy gives one of the most engaging and seamless performances of the night, along with [Nicki] Miller and [Lindsey] Austen as [former] roommates Amanda and Robin.”
–New York Theatre Review
“The company is lovely…All of the actors have worked hard on credible portraits of their people, with particularly impressive work from the sweet-faced Jesse Geguzis and Lindsey Austen, the amusingly wound-up Elizabeth Seldin, and the brooding Jordan Tierney. I would’ve especially liked more time with Tierney’s character Joey…His restrained melancholy intrigued me so fully that I skipped a louder scene across the room so I could stay near the ‘coloring table’ as Tierney and Geguzis played out a quiet reminiscence about someone dear to them. Like all dinner parties, Mrs. Mayfield works best as a communal effort, and in this case I took a surprising amount of pleasure from traveling about the space with my fellow audience members, every one a total stranger.”
“You’re at this precipice [in fifth grade]…we start discovering “coolness” in a more concrete, high-stakes way, and we become crueler in our pursuit of that coolness.”
–Interview with Mayfield playwright Mariah MacCarthy on Culturadar
“I absolutely do not wish to be strident, or one-note, or closed off to interpretation and nuance. But sometimes people tell me that’s how I come across. Sometimes people are surprised to meet me and discover that I’m quite warm and giggly. Sometimes people are surprised to find that I don’t intimidate them or want to crush their testicles.”
–Mariah MacCarthy on “Killing It at Life”
“I had people making out on my couch and dead in the bathroom and screaming and it was just awesome.”
–Mayfield director Leta Tremblay interviews Mariah on Theaterspeak
“I’ve learned that the old theatrical rules do not necessarily apply to an immersive play experience like this. I’ve learned that there is no way to really predict how an audience will respond. I’ve learned that sometimes you just need to take big giant risks and trust that your collaborators will not only be there to catch you, but that they are holding your hand tightly and jumping off the cliff right alongside you. I’ve learned that spending a whole rehearsal talking about traumatic childhood memories is sometimes the most productive use of time. I’ve learned that playfulness and an open mind are essential to community created work. I’ve learned how to make a mean pot of chili. And I’ve learned that a group choreographed 5th grade dance number is one of the most magical gifts in the world.”
–Mayfield playwright Mariah MacCarthy interviews Leta on Theaterspeak
“It’s about a lot of things. It’s about bullying. It’s about death and how you deal with death when you’re a kid. It’s about losing your innocence as a kid. It’s about sex because it’s a Mariah MacCarthy play.”
–Mayfield playwright and director Mariah MacCarthy and Leta Tremblay on David Lawson’s podcast, Hold On a Second
“Even if your show only plays for twelve performances in a fifty-seat theater, that’s 600 people whose minds and hearts you can reach and touch. If you get those people to think about whatever is important to you, then yes, you can change those people, and that’s how you change society. In fact, you not only can, you should. That doesn’t mean every play should be “political,” but remember that having an audience is a gift and a unique opportunity to shift the world in whatever direction you’d like.”
–Interview with Mayfield playwright Mariah MacCarthy on nytheatre.com
“Cyclops would become fixated on one plot line and confused when multiple conversations happen at once. Cupid would be that audience member that can’t help but meddle in the action. Paul Bunyan would hang out at the drink table and eat all the chile. And the Easter Bunny would probably be distracting and hand out candy. So Cupid. Cupid would enjoy Mrs. Mayfield the most.”
–Interview with Mayfield director Leta Tremblay on nytheatre.com
For Pussyfest Redux (February 2013):
“We’ve had monologues about fish bodies, about dead mothers, about becoming different animals, and, yes, about vaginas.”
–David Omar Davila interviews Mariah MacCarthy at Bohemian Dreams
“I feel like the biggest threat to women and to feminism is not the violent men or the masturbators on the subway–it’s the men who will never strike or rape a woman in their life who don’t believe us when we tell them how widespread the violence and sexism are. Or who know and just shrug, saying that “terrible people and violence will always exist.” Who will never lift a finger to counteract it. It’s complacence that is the enemy, not violence. If it weren’t for the complacence, the violence wouldn’t stand a chance.”
–Carey Purcell interviews Mariah MacCarthy about Pussyfest
For Magic Trick (August 2012):
It’s in making the familiar seem fresh and exciting that this compelling show earns its claim of having real ‘magic’ over the audience. Magic Trick is a funny and sad love triangle…Each of the actors in this piece deserves special mention and acclaim. Kim Gainer plays Clara with a wicked sense of humor and twisted mind games that slowly unravel over the course of the two-hour show. Nic Grelli plays with the complex layers of Eric and creates a puzzling, infuriating, and alluring lover who is both incredibly needy and destructive. Diana Oh shines as Bana, who manipulates all situations to her advantage.
Playwright Mariah MacCarthy has created a very special story of love and betrayal…Director Christina Roussos’…use of the space is truly fun, clever, and serves the story well. A special note of attention goes to light designer Lois Catanazaro and costume designer Orli Nativ…Both the cast and crew have come together to create rich, character-driven overlapping stories in this play. Let’s hope this is not the last Magic Trick that MacCarthy and Caps Lock Theatre has for audiences.
THEASY FRINGE BEST BET: Consistently enthralling…The play’s multiple musical and burlesque numbers were entirely engrossing, with even Grelli showing that men can be talented burlesque performers as well. The sexual pulse running through this play remains constant…It was also captivating to view a disabled main character as this issue is not one often explored theatrically (nor in a way that dodges the pitfalls of sentimentality.) Unlike many of the other plays included within the Fringe Festival, Magic Trick feels more like a fully completed project capable of standing on its own…The characters and plotlines within the work are fully fleshed out and nuanced.
Each of the performers in the play shows a great deal of talent. Oh in particular showed herself to be both a gifted actress as well as a talented singer. Magic Trick offers the kind of unusual, off-kilter story that downtown theater is known for and we can only hope it returns to the stage even after the festival has closed, as it is deserving of its own lengthier run.
Full of sexy goodness…Scratch the surface of all the seduction and right below you’ll find a strong play filled with true emotion, hard choices, honest conversation, not-always-likable characters, and unanswered questions…Solid direction [by] Christina Roussos…Gainer, Grelli and Oh are all fantastic at portraying not only the many different sides that one other individual brings out in them, but then the whole palate and range of different sides that another individual coaxes out…
In a powerful scene that highlights Gainer’s raw strength, Clara – with Bana’s blessing – couples with Eric only to turn on him in a way that is unnerving to watch…While Diana Oh, Kim Gainer and Nic Grelli all strip seductively, with expert wickedness and nuanced allure there’s no mistaking that this play is not about baring skin but about baring emotions. Which, once revealed to another, can’t be hidden again behind a feather boa.
An inventive premise and well-drawn characters…In their post-coital scene together (one of the strongest in the production), it becomes apparent that both Eric and Clara are drawn to Bana’s resolute spirit in the face of her disability. MacCarthy depicts with stunning clarity how each unconsciously hopes that aligning themselves with Bana’s strength will fill a void within themselves….MacCarthy hits her stride in moments such as these, providing remarkable depictions of disability as it affects the disabled and their loved ones in contemporary America.
Diana Oh as Bana, Nic Grelli as Eric, and Kim Gainer as Clara give dynamic and nuanced performances, especially thriving when the script’s dialogue leans toward the confrontational. Especially in the first act, it seems that the characters are perpetually pushing each other’s buttons to get a desired reaction. Director Christina Roussos weaves some softer moments into the mix to great effect, notably in the scene depicting how Bana and Clara first met…The playwright has such a finely tuned ear for dialogue and characterization.”
“-Love is the best.
-Love is the worst.
-You can love someone and still be selfish.
-You can love someone and still be an asshole.
-You can love someone and still leave them, and be right to leave.
-Confusing lust and love is alarmingly easy.
-So is sabotaging other people’s love for you.
-Love is not enough.
-Truly giving in to love requires either innocence or bravery.”
–Mariah MacCarthy talks Magic Trick at Works By Women
“I love theatre that is created because of a need to go deeper into something, to expose all of the beautiful and ugly bits, be it an event or a feeling or a human being or anything really.”
—Magic Trick director Christina Roussos, Q&A on nytheatre.com
“Honestly, I don’t know how I would have survived if I hadn’t written this play.”
—Magic Trick playwright Mariah MacCarthy, Q&A on nytheatre.com
“I think if social judgment didn’t exist, we’d all be burlesque dancers. Bankers, teachers, all of us. Maybe that’s what college graduation really should be–a mandatory burlesque show where everyone participates.”
—Magic Trick actress Diana Oh, Q&A on nytheatre.com
“I see at every turn how Mariah’s characters make the choices they make, even when they are disastrous ones. There is this palpable struggle in her characters of people wrestling with the difference between following one’s impulses and following one’s heart. How to love but not be trapped. How to be loyal but also be free. How we limit ourselves by our own definitions.”
—Magic Trick actor Nic Grelli, Q&A on nytheatre.com
For PUSSYFEST (June 2012):
Christine J. Schmidt’s and August Schulenberg’s PUSSYFEST monologues on New York Theatre Review
Anna Van Valin performs David Lawson’s PUSSYFEST monologue “Big Girl in Dimension X” on the podcast Hold on a Second
For The Foreplay Play (April-May 2012):
Thoughtfully question[s] the boundaries of love and possessiveness in relationships…MacCarthy does a nice job of unearthing the awkward pairings of her characters, and finding the emotional sweet spot that pushes each one to the brink…and she gives each of the four characters their due in this respect. She’s imbued her dialogue with a nice conversational tone, which is paced nicely by director Leta Tremblay, that works well for the informal, environmental apartment setting. It is a credit to her writing and her cast’s ease with its tone and voice that there are many moments in the play that have such a nice natural humor and spontaneity to them that it’s hard to tell if the actors are ad-libbing or if it’s actually scripted.
The four characters teeter back and forth between clashing and coming together extremely well, revealing each others’ strengths and their breaking points…Nic Grelli’s soft-spoken Kyle is a lovely blend of a quiet fun-loving charisma and deep vulnerability and insecurity, while Lindsey Austen as Ani walks a fine line between being the most enthusiastic about the evening while being the most uptight. Her hilarious but sad descent through the evening is impressive and heart-wrenching. Diana Oh plays her role (Isabel) as the consummate good host, trying to keep the warring personalities together, while letting on that—just under the surface—she may be the most unstable of them all. And Parker Leventer does a nice job of keeping Kelly human and sympathetic…
The Foreplay Play is a fun, awkward ride that really seems to beg the question, “How open can a committed relationship really be?“ Not only does it have a amusing time in debunking the “magical experience” of group sex, but it points out that, try as we might, people can’t help that we are a jealous, flawed species. It’s what makes us human.
After a series of awkward missteps, false starts, jumping the gun (but not without a few hot hot, drrrrrty, breathtaking, throw-you-up-against-the-wall, take-you-right-now-on-the-kitchen-counter moments) Kyle, the sole male of the intended foursome is strumming a guitar and the quartet has just finished a rousing rendition of Springteen’s Hungry Heart.… “Hungry Heart” is a beautiful moment – each character singing with completely different motivation: some with actual hunger in their heart, some with nothing more than Springsteen Joy, and others with the taste of a memory, perhaps…
What The Foreplay Play illustrates and illuminates beautifully is that bringing the fantasy (again, of anything, but specifically group sex) into the real world is a daunting process…On display this evening for all of us (and for each other) to see are each character’s most charming qualities, their most annoying habits, their sexiest urges, their most awkward discomfort…The cast is strong, each delivering a nuanced performance which gives you an opportunity to side with them or against them depending on the flow of the evening. Under Leta Tremblay’s fine direction the night is hyper-real…
Tremblay also deftly balances all the craziness (Twister! Knife play! Costumes and fake accents! Spin the bottle!) with a solid anchor of gravitas…MacCarthy aims for – and delivers – a night of questions rather than answers. A night of seeking rather than finding, and a night which flips over the rocks to explore the grime underneath. While no one gets very naked, emotionally the cast strips bare and the four individuals share intimacies on a level much deeper than the simple exchanging of bodily fluids. Ultimately sex is besides the point. MacCarthy, in her Playwright’s Note, admits that the play “ends up being a celebration of love, not sex”.
CAPS LOCK THEATRE, on their website, states, “We like plays where people are at both their worst and their best; where people screw each other–or themselves–over, and have to find a way to deal with it; where people’s hearts hurt, or open, or blossom.” I’d say that The Foreplay Play does all of this – and perfectly.
The Foreplay Play’s apartment setting, playful honest dialogue, and naturalistic acting makes this theater experience so realistic that you find yourself questioning if you’re really watching a play, or just spying on your cooler-than-you neighbors. Engaging and uniquely voyeuristic, if you’re lucky enough to see it you’ll be talking about it for years to come.
…Witnessing Mariah MacCarthy’s finely woven lusty play The Foreplay Play in a hip Williamsburg apartment will top [the] list of uniquely New York things you did when you were cool…The setting makes the audience so much a part of the action that it challenges them to question their reality…
The strong and complex characters and relationships make Foreplay not your typical web of love triangles. Surprisingly true to life, these young characters are endearing and caring at some moments, and selfish and immature at others…Each character is admirable in their own way, and this empathetic connection makes the jaw dropping moments of trust betrayals and power reversals all the more dramatic, leaving you bug eyed and a little scared for what will happen next.
Parker Leventer excellently executes mind games and blunt accusations as Isabel’s lover Kelly, and Diana’s Oh’s Isabel has a secretive nature and steamy allure that’s hard to take your eyes off of. Lindsey Austen plays such an adorable and sweet Anika you almost excuse her selfishness and lack of consideration for her boyfriend, Kyle. Nic Grelli‘s Kyle, who seems like a 3rd (4th?) wheel at the top of the story, slowly evolves into the most dynamic character onstage…To top it all off, director Leta Tremblay molds each scene so realistically, it’s makes you forget these actors aren’t their characters in real life. It feels that real.
One of the most admirable parts of MacCarthy’s Foreplay Play is what it downplays — sexuality. The Foreplay Play isn’t really about sex, it’s about relationships. One of those relationships happens to be a gay relationship, but that doesn’t suddenly make Foreplay a queer play — it’s a human play. MacCarthy’s characters transcend gender and stereotypes and never gets preachy about queer culture. They are written already comfortable with themselves in that aspect, and performed with the expectation that the audience doesn’t need a PSA about love and lust having no boundaries. Foreplay skips that, and just lets the characters dive right into messing up each others’ lives. Respect.
Gives new meaning to the word ‘realism’…The setup is intriguing and seeing the shifting alliances between the four characters provides some fun. MacCarthy includes simple yet effective comedy…Diana Oh’s portrayal of Izzie is fascinatingly authentic. How crazy that witnessing an actor in a play behave like a real person can be breathtaking…Oh [has a] radiant ability to crack under pressure (she screams into a pillow) and then act natural as another character enters. She puts on a grand façade of composure without ever over-doing it. Oh allows the circumstances of the play to effect her character gradually and convincingly…Nic Grelli brings a sweet charm to Kyle…Grelli is a master downplayer and brings a way different energy to the room than the women. There’s also some great sexual tension between Izzie and Kyle. When they’re on stage by themselves, they engage each other and the audience lucratively…There’s a sensational unpredictability for both the characters and the audience during a game of Spin the Bottle…A celebration of chaos.”
“I write about sex because whenever sex becomes a possibility, so does heartbreak.”
“Just do it. Just do your play in an apartment. Why wouldn’t you? So many plays are set in apartments, there’s got to be at *least* one that you’re considering producing, right? So why would you spend the money to rent a space and build a set that *looks* like an apartment, when you could just use a real apartment?”
–Mariah MacCarthy on doing The Foreplay Play in a real apartment: guest blog on New York Theatre Review
“When it gets down to the nitty gritty, these couple fear real liberation, they still want possession of their partners, they still want a new kind of monogamy, and in the end the two things are simply incompatible.”
–Sean Williams of Gideon Productions on sex in indie theatre: “I Need A Baby”