New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood lauded Meryl Streep for her role as the voice of Mary in the audio edition of Colm Toibin's anti-Christian book, "The Testament of Mary."
The result: simplicity, honesty, a clarity that draws us into the emotional landscape of the book through the beauty of the writing — and it is as beautiful as anything this gifted Irish writer has produced. But often there is also a simmering intensity, as of overwhelming feeling held just barely in check. And there is, again, the sheer beauty of the voice, which has a cello-like resonance, slightly dark-timbred. Streep has an impressive ability to crest the structurally intricate sentences Toibin has fashioned, which sometimes have the flowing, rhythmic cadences of certain passages in the Bible itself.
Except those passages, as Isherwood points out, "belies those revered images" that are deeply rooted within the Bible and traditional Christian liturgy. In fact, Toibin's book directly contradicts the Gospel accounts. It questions, from Mary's perspective, whether she believes her son to be the Son of God. It speaks of her being bewildered to hear him say he is the Son of God. And finally, Toibin has Mary leaving Jesus to die alone on the cross in fear for her own life, in contrast to the Mary from the Bible who stayed and tended to her son. Isherwood finishes:
Toibin’s exquisite book, rendered by Streep with all its detached, quiet, consoling humanity intact, belies those revered images. As Mary says in the final pages, referring to her abandonment of the dying son she had tried so desperately to save, “It is what really happened that is unimaginable.”
The only unimaginable thing that could happen over at The New York Times is for this same theater critic to offer similar praise towards Christian authors and actors.