The Mary Magdalene Story

Katie Ketchum has a beautiful voice, but her solo show is wacky and poorly executed

Apparently, Mother Teresa played the albums of local composer, performer, and playwright Katie Ketchum in her healing centers throughout India. Ketchum's last solo show, about American painter Mary Cassatt, received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. These facts certainly give her lots of holy — and theatrical — cred. So it would appear to make divine sense that Ketchum has spent the last 23 years translating The Gospel of Mary of Magdala into this solo play, even if the result is wacky and poorly executed. Centered on a '50s rockabilly singer named Marlene who's rehearsing her band to spread the message of love while receiving sacred nightly visitations, Ketchum's performance feels as if she were a rebellious nun throwing a Sunday school sing-a-long in the church basement. She has a beautiful voice, and there are some charming moments (such as when Ketchum reads from a copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mary Magdalene), but a good directorial eye is lacking. This production is perhaps ideally suited to a cabaret setting rather than Shotwell Studio's dance space so that audiences could better heed Ketchum's lyrical advice: “Bring the water; we'll turn it into wine. … Let's party!” Ultimately, there are too many awkward transitions and bizarre moments — like her out-of-nowhere goth-styled dance number, set to prerecorded rap lyrics railing against women being treated as “doormats” for 2,000 years because Magdalene was incorrectly labeled a prostitute. As Ketchum sings (and we scratch our heads): “Please find it in your heart to hug a ho today.”

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