Photo Credit: Sara Lopez

Dressed in black, revealing some of darkest, most heartbreaking experiences of her life in both word (excerpts from her diaries) and song (a set of well-chosen jazz and blues standards), The Reverend Mary, aka Mary Elizabeth Micari, exuded a humorous, sexy confidence; even, amidst the anger and pain, a sunny, upbeat disposition.

The Reverend Mary knows two key things: how to use stillness on stage as an advantage, and that facing one’s fears and troubles with laughter really is, so the trope goes, the best medicine. As she read from her diaries, which span the 70s, 80s, and 90s, she traced her love life from puberty through her first, somewhat not great marriage, painting a compelling picture in words and song of a romantic young girl from Brooklyn growing into adulthood trying to hold on to her romantic ideals while making the same mistakes over, and over, and over again. As her ideals crumbled in the face of the reality of her mistakes, the show took an ever-darkening, sometimes off-putting turn, but her willingness to be so emotionally honest allied to her sharp wit and perfectly deadpan comic timing kept the show aloft even when her younger self was at her lowest points.

And as good an actress as she is, it was her voice which shot the show up into the heavens (or below, as necessary.) Every single note perfectly placed and produced,  her vocals poured out of her like the silkiest, best bourbon; intoxicating, leaving one feeling the warm glow of a night well spent with a good friend, and looking forward to another generous pour.

Smoothly directed by Jay Michaels and ably supported by Musical Director Dan Furman on piano, John Dinello on bass/percussion, and Alan Lightly on guitar, perfectly chosen songs underscored, commented on, or moved her story forward with ease; taken from a broad range of musical idioms from 20s jazz and 30s blues through contemporary rock, musically it was a bonfire of riches. A few of the highlights included her sultry take on More Than You Know (Vincent Youmans, Billy Rose & Edward Eliscu, 1929), a bluesy Since I Fell For You (Buddy Johnson, 1945), with a terrific piano riff from Furman, and a defiantly angry yet exhilarating You Don’t Own Me (John Madera & David White), with which she closed the show.

She hinted, quite broadly, there may be a second show coming, covering her diaries from the late 90s to today, in which she’ll talk about her far more successful second marriage (to her director Jay Michaels.) One hopes it will be a happier show; it’s already very clear it will be a very well sung, very funny, and given her engaging presence, a very welcome show.