By Michael Block
There are pioneers in every industry but sometimes a pioneer turns into an icon for all the wrong reasons. In Dead Shot Mary by Robert K. Benson, the life of a fascinating figure is brought to the stage as see the real Mary Shanley.
Performed by Rachel McPhee, Dead Shot Mary is more than a solo play about Mary Shanley, it explores the gender roles of the past that still exist today. Set up like a memory play, of sorts, this autobiographical stage play captures Mary's life from girl with a dream to rise as the infamous undercover detective gracing the covers of papers and magazines. But how did the fame really affect her career and personal life? Benson's exploration dives deeper than the surface. The content within his text is engaging. But the conceit is a bit muddled. With this being a solo play, establishing just exactly who Mary is conversing with his imperative. The result is the clarity of memory needs to be stronger. We watch Mary speak to an unseen person on a bus out of New York but when it shifts to active narration was not as seamless as it was required to be. Regardless, this is a play about Mary Shanley and the respect for the woman is what is greatly appreciated. We watched Mary as she unraveled from a life of work and fame.
Dead Shot Mary is a special show. When you find an actress who can embody the real person, it’s as if you’ve struck gold. Rachel McPhee was that. McPhee captured the essence of the women with a tough exterior but a heart of gold. Even with a tinge of a cartoonish voice, McPhee was authentic.
It may not be perfect but if you’re interested in a refreshing solo piece, take a trip to see Dead Shot Mary.