Suspension of belief is strongly urged for audiences who see “Maggie Rose,” the current play at the Performance Network. Yet the focus for this work is belief and disbelief.
Local playwright Kim Carney melds together the worlds of trailer parks, funeral homes and miracles. This fusion produces plot shifts and character twists which challenge the audiences” previously held notions of faith or religious conviction.
In a trailer park in Bath, Michigan, a miracle has occurred, unfolding before everyone”s eyes. Maggie Rose, a mobile maid, has been electrocuted while using a damp cloth over an electric outlet in the local funeral home. While her family mourns, she suddenly re-appears to them in their trailer. She has been restored to life. Her employer, Mr. DeLuca, the mortician, declares that he embalmed her himself. When Maggie cuts her finger, however, she drips blood instead of embalming fluid.
She is immediately touted as a media personality. Maggie, who is confused by the events that have occurred over the three days in which she was dead, seeks to sort them out, avoiding the crush of curious crowds and her money-hungry family.
The continuing transformation of Maggie as she strives for a new beginning is sifted throughout, surrounded by the cacophony of those who would choose to exploit her. In the end, Maggie returns to a quiet place in her childhood, a birdbath. She sits in the middle of the encircled, empty birdbath, contemplating her place in the star-filled galaxy, while she is invited to recite a nighttime prayer with a neighbor”s child.
Lavinia Moyer renders a stellar performance as Maggie Rose. Her deeply set, wide blue eyes reveal a sense of shock, perhaps at awakening from her deathly experience. Moyer grasps the simplicity and complexity of Maggie Rose, and a lesser actress might have not done such justice to this role. As Maggie re-enters the real world, she is frightened and unsure of herself. But as the play moves along, Maggie becomes aware of her power, and remains determined not to be exploited by the people around her.
Her boyfriend Jerry, portrayed by Mark Rademacher, fills the stage with his swagger and the presence of his six-pack. Laurie V. Logan, as her mother Virginia, is the Appalachian woman in this play. Dressed mostly in rhinestone-studded shirts, she mixes her mournful bewilderment with strong doses of merchandising for her daughter.
The door to the trailer is also an important character in this play. The door serves as a focal point, a transition between the outside world, which craves for a glimpse of the resurrected Maggie Rose, and the inside world, which Maggie Rose seeks to preserve at all costs.
The playwright uses the trailer park stereotype to the hilt. She does not draw the line between humor and poor taste very effectively, however. In the first scene, for example, as Maggie”s mother (Logan) is writing her daughter”s obituary, she asks her granddaughter to assist her. When the granddaughter demurs, she reminds her that she is the one with the G.E.D. Within this type of humor, many of Carney”s themes are often obscured or lost.
The final scene is the strongest, however, combining some of the naive questioning and humor of Maggie Rose with the simplest of designs. With this scene, Carney and Moyer are able to delicately bring peace and joy, and the wondrous spirituality of a life well lived.