Tony Noms Won’t Save ‘Testament of Mary’

Tony Noms Won't Save 'Testament of

With star Fiona Shaw left out of acting category, slow-selling play will shutter

Ink on the Tony nominations is barely dry and already one show has called it quits: Sales-challenged “The Testament of Mary” will shutter May 5 after a short run.

It’s common for struggling productions to post notice after coming up empty-handed in the awards race, but in the case of “Testament,” it’s a little more complicated. After all, the world preem of Colm Toibin’s play, produced by a team led by Scott Rudin, earned three nods, including one for new play plus design noms for Jennifer Tipton (lights) and Mel Mercier (sound).

However, star Fiona Shaw, who plays the Virgin Mary in the solo show, was locked out of the lead actress race, an extremely competitive category that also didn’t find a spot for big-name thesps including Bette Midler and Scarlett Johansson. Director Deborah Warner was similarly excluded from the director category, suggesting nominators were more taken with Toibin’s script than the production in which it bowed.

Producers seem to have decided, probably rightly, that without a Tony-endorsed sense that Shaw gives a must-see performance, box office has little likelihood of improving. Most legiters believe, in any event, that the only Tony category that can really move the needle on sales is new musical.

“Testament of Mary” began perfs March 26 and never caught on with auds, with preview weeks of six or seven perfs each that never cracked $200,000 per sesh. Last week, during the eight-perf frame that included its April 22 opening, the show pulled in $216,533 and played to 76% capacity.

The show has been the focus of a handful of sparse and seemingly perfunctory protests by Christian groups objecting to the play’s frank re-examination of Mary and the crucifixion, but these never managed to draw much of a media spotlight. The largely favorable reviews seem to have gotten lost in the surge of Broadway opening last week, while others in the industry have questioned the effectiveness of the ad campaign’s dour key art.

On the show’s producing team with Rudin are Stuart Thompson and Jon B. Platt, among others. “Testament” will close at the Walter Kerr Theater after a total of 27 previews and 16 regular perfs.

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  1. Arthur Hill says:

    I was in NYC on a business trip and was a naive theater aud member, (in that I didn’t know that this show was to be shuttered unit the day of shuttering — I attended the play on May 4). I was drawn to this show by some sort of the vague sense and idea that the play would be intriguing and complex. I had read a couple of reviews and some advertising online. It turns out that this was a powerful performance of an intriguing concept and an original viewpoint of Christianity and modern culture. This is an important play in that it forces a new look at old ideas and challenges our way of accepting ideas and dogma that need to be questioned and challenged. The performance was incredibly well done, (acting, stage set, lighting, music), and it was exceedingly good to see a highly trained actress at the peak of her craft and carry it out in a beautiful technical performance that made a striking and powerful impression. I can see why this show isn’t the standard Times Square/Theater District money maker. As I sat in the aud, I observed that the other aud members appeared to be local NYC residents and hard-core theater devotees. I felt that it was a real privilege to have found this show, to be among these other theater goers, and I will continue to seek out this sort of performance when I travel to NYC in the future. I hope that this play will have a future elsewhere, and I will keep an eye out for future performances of Ms. Shaw and Co.

  2. Ann Butler says:

    I was just playing a May trip to NY to see this play….RATS!!!
    Bring it to Boston!!!!!!!!

  3. Wendy Bricmont says:

    This shuttering is an incredible shame. This piece was one of the most accomplished and effecting that I have ever experienced. It is a universal story about mothers and sons. Fionna Shaw is luminous. The Tony voters show their low bar yet again with nods to a show like Kinky Boots or the Nance. Really? So disappointed that others will miss this great moment of theater.

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