Highly controversial Broadway play The Testament of Mary is closing after only two weeks despite earning three Tony Award nominations.
Colm Tóibín's stage adaptation of his novella opened on April 22 and was scheduled to run until June 16. But rather than its scheduled 12-week run, it closed after only two weeks, ending on May 5, with only 43 performances. The play earned three Tony Award nominations for best play, lighting, and sound.
On opening night and thereafter, protesters peacefully picketed outside of the Walter Kerr Theatre. "This play defames the blessed Virgin Mary. It attacks Christians. It attacks the veracity of the gospel. It attacks the miracles that our Lord worked, and it's extremely offensive," John Ritchie, the protest's organizer, told CBS News.
Award-winning stage and screen actress Fiona Shaw portrayed the mother of Jesus, wearing barbed wired to resemble thorns and holding large nails. She acted alone, directed by Deborah Warner, under the shadow of a live vulture.
Her character denied that Jesus is the Son of God, doubted that he could have performed miracles, and stated that Jesus only rose from the dead in the dreams of his followers. Of Jesus's disciples, she said they were "a group of misfits … who cannot even look a woman in the eye." She smoked cigarettes, eventually disrobed, and got into an onstage pool, to "come clean" about her feelings of Jesus's death.
The final words she spoke in the play were about Jesus' life and death, saying, "It was not worth it."
On hearing of the play's demise, Catholic League's President Bill Donahue said, "On the day it opened, I said, 'it is not easy to see who is going to be drawn to this play.' The play bombed. That's why it closed. Quite frankly, there aren't enough people who want to spend their evenings watching a dark performance about a fanciful Virgin Mary who rejects the divinity of her son."
The producers of the play announced in a statement that the play is "neither anti-Mary nor anti-Christianity, but rather a portrait of a very human woman – a mother – who is trying to make sense of and come to terms with the tragic death of her son."
The Testament of Mary is one of three recent religious-themed shows to fail on Broadway. Scandalous, a play about the Foursquare Church, only lasted three weeks. Leap of Faith, a play about a preaching con man who was offered redemption, only lasted about 20 performances. Still others have been successful, like Doubt, which dealt with the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, and the Book of Mormon, a parody about Mormon missionaries.