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      Mary Todd Lincoln: A Woman Apart
    Proud Mary

    "Mary Todd Lincoln: A Woman Apart" uses the onetime first lady's asylum stay as a starting point for exploring this enigmatic figure's complex role in history.


    The portrait of Mary Lincoln director-playwright Carl Wallnau portrays in his play "Mary Todd Lincoln: A Woman Apart" is very similar to the one presented by the recent popular PBS documentary "Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided." Little sympathetic had been known about Mrs. Lincoln until the broadcast of that groundbreaking documentary, which presented the troubled compulsive shopper as a complicated, well intentioned and persecuted public figure.

    Company: Centenary Stage Co..
    Written by: Carl Wallnau.
    Cast: Colleen Wallnau, Desiree Fitzgerald, Cynthia Cicmansky.
    Set design by: Gordon Daniele.

    Related links: Official site
    Beckett Theatre
    410 West 42nd St.
    Previews start: April 24, 2003
    April 29 - May 17, 2003

    The Jackie Kennedy of her day, Mary Lincoln's life was no less extraordinary in both her successes and scandals as first lady of the United States (she too renovated the White House but unlike Kennedy was criticized for it) and overwhelming tragedies — the deaths of three sons, the assassination of her husband and the subsequent betrayal by her one surviving son, who had her committed to a sanatorium.

    The action in this production by New Jersey's Centenary Stage Company takes place during Mrs. Lincoln's brief stay in the asylum before she is liberated by her sister. The one-woman show, performed with high energy and full commitment by Colleen Wallnau, is long — two hours with an intermission — but full of facts and details about the life of this historical figure.

    Two non-speaking performers dressed as nuns (Desiree Fitzgerald and Cynthia Cicmansky) flit on and off stage arranging Mary Lincoln's oft-referenced trunks, opening the windows and panels of Gordon Daniele's set meant to suggest both the interior of the White House during Lincoln's reminiscences of her golden era to the asylum itself as she rails against her unfair incarceration. Intermittently, incoherent voiceovers of disembodied, seemingly random personalities from Mrs. Lincoln's past stop the action on stage, hinting at the clearly distraught and disturbed mental state of its subject.

    Though it's a bit of a history lesson, it is always interesting to spend time thinking of the rich and complicated stories of the sometimes rich and always complicated personalities who make up, and in this case remade, the Union.

    MAY 1, 2003

    Reader comments on Mary Todd Lincoln: A Woman Apart:

  • mary todd   from modupe, Apr 21, 2004
  • performance   from elayne wilks, May 31, 2009

  • Post a comment on "Mary Todd Lincoln: A Woman Apart"