Around The Town

Paulanne Simmons Unscripted

More About Mary

May 12, 2024: Cole Escola’s new comedy Oh, Mary! has great fun picturing Abraham Lincoln as a closeted homosexual and Mary Todd Lincoln as an alcoholic, an unloving mother and a frustrated cabaret performer. I don’t know much about Lincoln’s sexuality, but I do know Mary Lincoln was a loving mother who was devastated by the untimely death of three of her four children. Although that might make many people turn to drink, Mary does not seem to have succumbed.

More About Mary

May 12, 2024: Cole Escola’s new comedy Oh, Mary! has great fun picturing Abraham Lincoln as a closeted homosexual and Mary Todd Lincoln as an alcoholic, an unloving mother and a frustrated cabaret performer. I don’t know much about Lincoln’s sexuality, but I do know Mary Lincoln was a loving mother who was devastated by the untimely death of three of her four children. Although that might make many people turn to drink, Mary does not seem to have succumbed.

There is no record of Mary ever having performed onstage in any capacity, but she did throw lavish parties in the White House. And, of course, she was sitting beside her husband when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre. So perhaps she did enjoy the performing arts.

Escola’s farce has been called gleefully irreverent. Just what is it being irreverent about? What is the source of the comedy? The characters in this work have so little relation to the people they are named after they might as well have been fictional.

But would we have laughed nearly as much if there was not that extra titillation of associating the antics we watch with historical figures? And if not, what is so inherently humorous about making fun of people, alive or dead?

The real Mary Todd Lincoln did not have a life anyone would envy. In addition to enduring the many deaths in her family, she had frequent migraines, exacerbated by a head injury in 1863. She also suffered from depression that was so severe she attempted suicide and was only thwarted by an alert pharmacist who was suspicious of the large quantity of laudanum she had ordered. 

Mary didn’t get too much help from her only surviving son, Robert, who had her committed to a private mental asylum. Mary managed to get out of the asylum through the efforts of a lawyer and his feminist wife, as well as public opinion, which eventually turned against Robert.

I don’t think making fun of Mary Todd Lincoln will hurt her or her reputation one bit. But I do think having fun at the expense of other people, living or dead, especially someone who suffered as much as Mary Todd Lincoln, is in poor taste. She may not be diminished. But we are.