The Testament of Mary at PURE Theatre 

Holier than Thou

Sharon Graci uses her own life as a mother of five to play the Virgin Mother

David Mandel

Sharon Graci uses her own life as a mother of five to play the Virgin Mother

Sharon Graci of PURE Theatre has huge shoes to fill. As the star of the one-woman show, The Testament of Mary, she'll portray the Blessed Virgin Mary, sharing the story of the death of her son, Jesus Christ.

Sound a little heavy? It is. But Graci is confident this is the right play, at the right time. She's thrilled to show the human side of one of the most iconic figures in Christian history.

Based on the short novel of the same name by Colm Tóibín — which was later developed into a monologue for the 2011 Dublin Theatre Festival and eventually ran on Broadway, garnering three Tony Award nominations — the play finds its namesake in the years following Jesus's crucifixion.

PURE ensemble member Erin Wilson directs the play, but rather than leading Graci to portray the Virgin as a shrinking violet, in The Testament she isn't the submissive character most people are used to. This Mary is sad. She's lonely. She's even, dare we say ... angry?

For Graci, this is what makes the play great. "What we're finding is that Mary is bitter, and she's angry, because the world took from her that which was most important to her, her child. And her pain and her grief — her mourning — is that of a mother who loses a child, which is completely and totally an unnatural progression of our life cycle. We're not meant to bury our children. So why would we think someone, even in the most pure form of divine grace, would be without those human emotions?"

Raised as a Catholic, Graci's witnessed the very special relationship many people have with Mary, is also the mother of five children. She understands the love of a child. So for her, portraying Mary is meaningful, powerful. She has an important lesson to convey. "We are all capable of grace. Mary is never more human than when she's angry. She's never more accessible than when she feels robbed. First and foremost she loved Jesus not only as a savior, but as a son."

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