"Mary" ★★

Provocation is a legitimate goal for a young playwright. So goad away. Just know that act of provocation is not an indemnity policy against the need for structural integrity. And truth. In Thomas Bradshaw's "Mary," we meet two young college men in the early 1980s. They are gay. This we intuit not from their ordinary conversation, but, at least in May Adrales' outre production, from their stereotypical attire and simpering chatter. One young man, David (Alex Weisman), invites the other, Jonathan (Eddie Bennett), to come to his family home in southern Maryland during Christmas vacation. Jonathan does so, and is chagrined to discover that David's parents still keep slaves. You read that right. This is an arresting premise for a play that wants to probe the abiding echoes of America's racist past by simply forcing discussion of the elephant in plenty of American living rooms. But Bradshaw wants this to be David's crisis instead, and that's where things start to go off the rails. Why he is choosing this moment to ask things he would clearly have known since he was a kid? To those who find this entire plot line offensive, that might seem like a minor complaint. But for me, it's at the core of the trouble, at this juncture, with "Mary." Through March 6 in the Owen Theatre at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St.; $10-$42 at 312-443-3800 or goodmantheatre.org - CHRIS JONES
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