Reviews

The Saviour ****

Legendary Irish actor Marie Mullen shines in the World Premier of The Savior at the Irish Rep.

By Patrick Christiano

July 2, 2024: The world premiere of The Savior by Louise Lowe presents a rare opportunity to experience the legendary Irish actor Marie Mullen in an intimate setting at the Irish Repertory Theatre in Chelsea. Mullen, a Tony winner for The Beauty Queen of Leenane, channels Maire Sullivan, the central character of the two-hander, with an awe-inspiring performance in the chillingly funny drama. She is reprising her performance from an online production of the play in 2021. 

Jamie O’ Neill and Marie Mullen.

Legendary Irish actor Marie Mullen shines in the World Premier of The Savior at the Irish Rep.

By Patrick Christiano

July 2, 2023: The world premiere of The Savior by Louise Lowe presents a rare opportunity to experience the legendary Irish actor Marie Mullen in an intimate setting at the Irish Repertory Theatre in Chelsea. Mullen, a Tony winner for The Beauty Queen of Leenane, channels Maire Sullivan, the central character of the two-hander, with an awe-inspiring performance in the chillingly funny drama. She is reprising her performance from an online production of the play in 2021. 

The play begins on the morning of her 67th birthday. Maire is languishing in bed smoking a cigarette after having had sex with a stranger. She has been captivated by this man and hasn’t felt this alive in years.  While waiting for her him to return from the downstairs kitchen with coffee, she drifts off into memories of the numerous times sex was “foisted on me when I didn’t want it.”

Marie Mullen

Maire, a devout Catholic, confides in her savior, Jesus, seeking guidance and comes to believe the stranger was sent by HIM as amends for the traumas she has endured. Her mother died when she was a young girl, and she was sent to a laundry operated by a Catholic religious order, which she describes as a “reformatory for whores and hussies.” These laundries, with the aid of state funding, incarcerated thousands of girls, and women in Ireland as late as 1996. Maire reveals the horrors of the work performed in silence, and she recounts the death of a friend, who dropped dead from the suffocating heat. A death she was never allowed to fully mourn.

Mullen is luminous displaying impressive emotional range and making marvelous transitions as the character. One minute she is relishing having had sex at her age, and the next she is reprimanding herself for “acting ridiculous.” 

Marie Mullen and Jamie O’Neill.

Maire’s extasy is challenged when her son Mel, a homosexual played by Jamie O’Neill, arrives with some disturbing news about the stranger. In response, Maire unleashes a torrent of stored up anger on him. The past hangs heavily over both, and Mel relates that she was an emotionally absent mother subject to dark disturbing moods. 

The evening ends with mother and son alienated. Maire is unable to accept her son’s homosexuality because of her religious beliefs. Lowe’s direction places mother and son on opposite sides of a wall facing the audience. The staging underscores the gulf between them, and the pull of the early traumas.  Religion has been a dividing force instead of a healing one.

The Saviour
Irish Repertory Theatre
Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage
132 West 22nd Street, New York NY  irishrep.org.
Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes.
Through Aug. 13, 2023
Photography: Carol Rosegg

Marie Mullen