A New York play by famed Wexford writer Colm Toibin has been depicted as a blasphemous work by protesters who have picketed the Walter Kerr Theater.
The religious group made their protest at the opening of Toibin’s latest work starring the respected actress Fiona Shaw.
The Testament of Mary opened in Dublin in 2011 without controversy and consists of a monologue delivered by Mary, in which she expresses skepticism about her child’s status as the son of God.
The play opened in New York last week when it was picketed by about 50 protesters.
The Sunday Times reports that they carried banners that read ‘Stop blaspheming our lord now’ and ‘We offer God this public act of reparation and vehemently protest against the blasphemous play The Testament of Mary.'
The report says the protesters came from two religious organizations in Pennsylvania. America Needs Fatima and The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP).
The two groups previously protested about the film The Da Vinci Code and some healthcare reforms.
The 50 strong group, including children, gathered outside the theater where they recited the rosary and said other prayers. They dispersed after the play started.
In an online statement, TFP claimed Tóibín had incorrectly depicted Mary as ‘a narrow-minded, vulgar, egoistic and even idolatrous woman’.
The statement added: “The organization takes issue with the sexual orientation of those involved in the show.
“It is noteworthy that besides being written by an avowed homosexual, The Testament of Mary is being performed and directed by open lesbians, namely, Irish actress Fiona Shaw and British director Deborah Warner.”
The Sunday Times report adds that the TFP criticized Tóibín’s ‘contempt’ for gospels, Christian traditions and Mary, before outlining specific objections to the text.
The show’s Broadway producers responded: “It is neither anti-Mary nor anti-Christianity, but rather a portrait of a very human woman, a mother, who is trying to make sense of, and come to terms with, the tragic death of her son.
“We respect the right of protesters to express their viewpoint and ask that they come to our play with an open mind and let the work speak for itself.”
Tóibín declined to comment on the New York protest. Previously he said: “I do realize that this is not ideal if you pray to the Virgin Mary, as a lot of people do, or if you worship her. On the other hand, a book is closed. You have to open it to read it,” he told an American radio station.
“Also, I am a citizen of the European Union and indeed I am in the United States at the moment where the freedom to imagine and publish is one of the things we have all worked for over a number of centuries.
“So I am insisting on my right to imagine how she might have spoken on a given day. But I would also insist on someone else’s right not to open the book.”
The show officially opens in New York on April 12.