Chaos Attraction

Mary Stuart

2018-07-01, 8:04 p.m.

So today I was planning on going to the Solano County Mini Maker Faire. I went to it something like 3-4 years ago when it was the Benicia Mini Maker Faire and it was held at a school and I was very impressed at the time. Now they’ve renamed it and moved it to the Solano County fairgrounds, which I unknowingly thought was a good sign, maybe they had a bigger location, etc. Except I have not been to their fairgrounds before and I think they had more parking than actual fair.

It turns out that the Solano County fair was going on at the same time and Maker Faire had their own building and mini-backyard and you paid an extra $5 or so to get in. Now, I’m thinking it was just to try to get other people into the faire at all (a lady I talked to said she didn’t think it would happen again next year). Turns out the Solano Fair is much like the one in my county, i.e. small, free, and not much to do at it. So I give the fair people props for the idea, but...the Maker Faire was small. There were about two art cars and a nice water exhibit in the back and the rest of it was a big ol’ mostly empty warehouse with not a whole lot to do in it. I looked at things, bought a fur tail for my Halloween costume and had my photo taken on a throne of keyboards and well, I could only come up with things to do for about 45 minutes. I don’t think it helped that I showed up right at opening and not a lot of people were there at 10 a.m. and it felt very awkward to be one of a few in there not working.

After that, I decided to see what else there was to do at this fair and I saw the animals, the tiny gem building and the craft building, which was pretty good under the circumstances. But again, I could only kill time for about 45 minutes and ended up going home by noon.

I hadn’t planned on having that much free time today, so I decided to use the free ticket I won to go see the play “Mary Stuart” this afternoon. It’s the other show in the Shakespeare repertory--they usually do a musical and a historical play in summer and then the actual Shakespeare in the fall. I don’t think anyone else is going to want to see it with me, so I might as well go now.

The history behind this play, which I pretty much only knew from watching Reign, (which is super not historically accurate), was that Mary Stuart, a.k.a. Mary Queen of Scots, had two super bad second marriages. Her second husband, Darnley, was an asshole and he conveniently got murdered, presumably by her third husband, Bothwell. Mary was kidnapped and presumably raped by Bothwell so she had to marry him...or else it was all a scheme she was in on, nobody knows. Anyway, she had to flee to England and beg her cousin Queen Elizabeth I for asylum, but since Mary was (a) of Tudor blood, (b) Catholic and (c) at one point Henry VIII declared Elizabeth illegitimate, that made her a threat to Elizabeth’s throne. So without ever meeting her (not even once! such a disappointment is real life), Elizabeth had her in jail for nineteen years until finally having her executed.

This play is a fairly fictionalized version of how Elizabeth decided to have Mary executed. The playwright is clearly on Mary’s side, as Mary did wrong but is penitent (she admits to being in on the murder plot but says next to nothing about Bothwell and nothing about that whole rape thing) and is asking to talk to Elizabeth personally. A few young romantic hotheads--her jailer’s fictional nephew Mortimer among them--want to rescue her. Mortimer saw her portrait somewhere and fell in love, but the dude turns out to be pretty dang unhinged in the second act.

Elizabeth, once she hears this request, isn’t sure how to handle the situation. Mary’s been sentenced to death by a bunch of lords, but Elizabeth has to be the one to sign the order to have her killed, and Elizabeth doesn’t want to have to go quite that far. She asks her advisers about it. Burleigh is all “kill her, kill her now, she’s a threat,” Talbot is a fan of Mary’s and wants her freed, and Elizabeth’s “favorite”/more-or-less longtime boyfriend Leicester is all, “Hey, she’s not a threat, just let her live and kill her if she becomes a problem.

However, in this play Leicester is ... well, I dunno on the historical aspects of this one, I have read various books on him and Elizabeth and I don’t remember this coming up. Leicester had Mary arrested and voted for her death, but he claims to Mortimer that they were engaged once upon a time* and even though it’s been a few decades he still loves her and wants her back-and also he’s mad at Elizabeth for entertaining the idea of marrying France.

* sorta, at one point Elizabeth was trying to fix them up(!) and Leicester declined IRL.

Elizabeth does the “will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest” thing and hints to Mortimer that my, would it be convenient if Mary died on her own without Elizabeth having to take action. Mortimer takes the job (his uncle does not approve, as far as he’s concerned Mary stays intact on his watch until the beheading) so nobody else will get the job. Leicester talks Elizabeth into “conveniently” having Mary let free in a park where Elizabeth Just Happens to be out hunting so they can meet--he seems to be counting on some legal precedent that if Elizabeth and Mary meet, they can’t execute her because it’s like a pardon. I... dunno on the legality of this.

But anyway, the meeting happens in the park. (Again: did not happen in real life.) This is kind of sprung on Mary as a surprise and she freaks out and all the 19 years of rehearsal as to what she’ll say go out of her head, and her few friends tell her to be penitent and HOO BOY DOES SHE NOT MANAGE THAT FOR SHIT. To be fair, 19 years of being mad is probably really hard to stomach, and instead she loses her damn mind and tells Elizabeth off a LOT and finishes with that she, Mary, should be the queen instead.


Mary is all proud of herself for telling Elizabeth off, in front of Leicester, but Mortimer shows up and is all, “oh, Leicester isn’t gonna do anything for you, I’m your hero,” but acts so creepy she can’t even. Then someone tries to stab Elizabeth offstage and fails, everyone runs around and the plotters are found out, Mortimer dramatically slashes his own throat (the lights black out, thank gawd), and Leicester’s intentions toward Mary---or at least her letter to him--is discovered but he manages to weasel his way out of death by claiming he was investigating the double crossing Mortimer. But suffice it to say, the love is lost with all the queens.

Elizabeth continues to weasel about. She signs the order, then hands it off to some poor schmuck named Davidson who’s only worked there a few months and is intentionally vague and shitty as to what he’s supposed to do with it. Do I give the order to have her executed or not, he asks repeatedly. She’s all “Do your job!” Finally he’s confronted by Burleigh, who gets fed up with the hedging and just yanks the order out of his hands.

Mary takes being executed like a champ, since hey, at this point she’s got no worries any more! It’s all very saintly and white.

After that, it’s found out that various folks lied about Mary’s guilt or whatever and Elizabeth is suddenly all, “Wait! Don’t execute her yet! What do you mean, you already executed her? What did I tell you, Davidson? OFF TO THE TOWER WITH YOU! SAME WITH YOU, BURLEIGH!” so so much for faithful service there. Elizabeth’s down to one adviser, Talbot, who promptly quits, and Leicester’s sailed off to France by the time she asks for him. End of play.

I’m generally kinda neutral on Mary QoS historically. I liked watching Reign, which was clearly an experiment in so many things. Reign’s Mary was written as an intelligent, thoughtful girl, so the show really had to work at justifying real life Mary’s shitty life decisions. She married Darnley more for the politics on the show rather than love and Bothwell was handled so quickly I’m not even sure I could tell you what went on there. But what we know of the reality, it was a mess and doesn’t make her look good. This play does make her look good. I am generally a fan of Elizabeth the I being a general badass in a really hard time to be a lady badass, but she does not come off well here after a while. Kind of a jerkass. Then again, a lot of her court is also a bunch of jerkasses. I don’t remember ever reading that Leicester was that much of a double dealing asshole either.

Well. It was interesting. Good casting. The same actress that played Lily also played Mary and damn, she’s good. I hope she comes back here next year.

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