Testament of Mary is an ambitious project as far as Broadway productions go, with the striking stage set up almost as awe-inspiring as the actual one person show. A live vulture, an uprooted tree suspended in mid-air and a seemingly bottomless pool of water litter the stage that is soon inhabited by the show's star, Fiona Shaw, who gives a commanding performance in Irish writer Colm Toibin and director Deborah Warner's one woman show.

Fiona Shaw Colm Toibin
Fiona Shaw and Colm Toibin at the show's premiere.

The script is adapted from 2012 novella about Mary, the mother of Christ in 'historical' terms and the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven in the Biblical sense. Holding lilies, surrounded by a Plexiglas cube or by candles, or stripped of any defining qualities, Toibin's presentation of the Virgin Mary is bound to be one that you have never seen before as Testament of Mary really is a spectacle to behold.

The story follows Mary as she is finally cornered by John the apostle, who is demanding the grieving mother give her testimony for his work-in-progress Gospel. As she delivers her testimony about her son Shaw brings us a character that is truly original, one that holds some disdain for the 'blessed' apostles, and doubts the validity of her son's 'miracles.' But it is the crucifixion of her son that still holds a particular lack of comfort for her, for he didn't die in dignified silence at all, but in howls of pain and terror. As for her son's rising from the dead, she isn't particularly taken in by that either.

The show really is something to behold and is both a provocative and emotional adventure for the audience, with Shaw's performance holding the ambitious project together with gusto. Testament of Mary plays at The Walter Kerr Theatre, New York and runs until June 16.

Deborah Warner, Colm Torbin and Fiona Shaw
Deborah Warner, Torbin and Shaw have produced a great work of art.