“Oh Mary!” is absurdly awesome

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Conrad Ricamora and Cole Escola on stage dressed like Abraham and Mary Tod Lincoln.
"Oh, Mary!" Conrad Ricamora (L) as Abraham Lincoln, and Cole Escola as Mary Tood Lincoln.
Oh, Mary! billboard image
“Oh, Mary!” 2024

What’s the story of Mary Todd Lincoln? Do we know anything her other than she was married to the 16th President, Honest Abe, maybe was a little looney, liked to drink a bit… and that’s all Cole Escola needed to run with. And damn, did they go into a full-on sprint — nay, a marathon — bringing Mary Todd’s story “in the weeks leading up to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination” to the stage in a way nobody will ever be able to replicate again. The show has been one of the hottest tickets in the city and you need to see it before it closes in May.

Cole Escola, an artist, writer, performer, and queer icon who identifies with they/them pronouns, is known for their inimitable humor. They have gifted the people an off broadway show, Oh Mary! that blends physical comedy, insane jokes, and monstrous laughs to the Lucille Lortel Theatre. The four-month run of Escola’s equally ridiculous and groundbreaking play is the perfect celebration of queerness, campy stupidity, and a testament to the power of non-traditional theater.

Escola said they did no historical research in preparation for their new play Oh Mary!, which chronicles a bizarro version of Mary Todd Lincoln. Cole plays the former first lady, adorned in a classic bonnet and bodice which where the similarities likely stop. And thank God for that, because Cole’s turn as Mary brings Mrs. Lincoln to wonderfully absurd limits. Mary Todd is brutally blunt, complains to high heavens, crazily refers to a portrait of George Washington as ‘mother’ — it’s similar to their roll as obnoxious Chip from season four of Search Party. If one thing is certain, Cole is an expert at playing unhinged.

Cole has been a staple of queer internet culture for years, delivering irreverently strange sketches and videos that push comedy to the strangest of boundaries. This includes Our Home Out West and the cult-classic sketch, Orange Juice Commercial. There’s really no way to properly describe Escola’s humor. Much like Julio Torres (My Favorite Shapes, Problemista), they’ve carved a unique niche in the oddball community that is nothing short of pure entertainment. 

Many LGBTQ writers and comedians create art for the weird kids who preferred Ripley’s Believe it or Not over the Guinness Book of World Records. They deliver a special brand of uncanny you can’t help but love. While we may never know what went on in the life of good ol’ M.T. Lincoln, Cole Escola proves that the queer imagination can conjure the most magical moments. Truly I laughed so hard I almost needed my inhaler.

Also, Conrad Ricomora (How To Get Away With Murder, Fire Island) plays Abraham himself. Under his famous tophat and the faux-beard lining Ricomora’s *stunning* jawline is a performance that somehow matches the powerful whimsey Cole brings to the table. It really is two queer weirdos playing ping pong with historical fiction and we love that! 

Not much about Oh Mary! is online plotwise, and I don’t want to spoil anything more than it involves Cole at 100%. You absolutely have no idea what’s in store for you when you go see the show. The engagement is limited. They already extended the performances due to popular demand, so go see the damn show before it closes in May in New York City on Christopher Street!

ohmaryplay.com