WHAT HAPPENED NEXT: Murray doing one the play's jail-cell scenes.
The Innocence of Guilt: The Mary Lynch Story (Whirlwind Entertainment)
Director: Andrew Roach
Cast: Rosie Murray
Venue: Jamaican Shopping Club Theatre
HOW did Mary Lynch go from a privileged background and classy upbringing in St. Catherine to getting her start as an executive secretary to morphing into a head-turning fashionista (known as Mary D.) and wife of a respected bank manager – to becoming an inmate at the maximum-security Fort Augusta women’s prison, convicted and sentenced to 14 years behind bars for the gruesome slaying of her husband, Leary?
The sordid details – including some clutch-those-pearls revelations – of this high-profile case that rocked the ’90s are laid bare in The Innocence of Guilt, a lengthy but engrossing one-woman show penned by Michael Dawson (with Mrs. Lynch’s approval) and featuring Rosie Murray in one of the year’s most unforgettable performances as the widow finally telling her side of the story. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, according to Mary Lynch.
Did she do it? Was it self-defence? Did she lie to the police? What exactly happened that night? “I’m just here to tell you my story, to be real with you,” Murray offers in a speaking voice that’s as unfussy as it is disarming. She’s applying her makeup.
The actress, wearing a little black dress/negligee, her hair perfectly permed, takes us on a woman’s journey from childhood to adulthood: being a daddy’s girl, buying her first property at 18, going on to own 400 pairs of designer shoes (“I loved having the finer things”) to meeting Leary at the bank where she worked.
At the outset, he didn’t impress her. He wasn’t her type (too short and chubby and unkempt) but he was persistent in his courtship and she decided to take him on as a project, transform him and take him to the pinnacle of success professionally. But, according to Mrs. Lynch, he turned out to be a monster at heart. The physical violence she was eventually subjected to was unbearable. Sorry fi mawga dawg…
And Murray squanders zero opportunity to drive this point home: Mary Lynch was married to an abuser who regularly beat and battered her until that night when the tables turned. As we all know, the court said differently, convicting her for murder via indisputable evidence. But Mrs. Lynch is sticking to her report of events.
The Innocence of Guilt, which unsurprisingly references the OJ saga, #MeToo and the Bill Cosby shocker, also allows Mary Lynch some rumour refutation (“I am not a lesbian!”) and character defense in the face of venom and lies (“I was slandered and defamed [as] that cruel ungrateful bitch who killed the man for his house!”)
Summing it all up, with tears and a runny nose, she asserts, “I am no criminal. I have never been and will never be.” Murray is a terrific character actress and she does a fantastic job humanizing this embattled woman. Was Mary Lynch a victim? Misunderstood? An innocent woman or a cold-blooded killer?
Dawson’s script is engagingly written but needs some trimming, especially that jail-cell scene near the end. He captures her story compellingly, but the unavoidable questions are raised. The play will enlighten viewers, yes, but certainly incense a few.
In the end, of course, you’ll draw your own conclusions, and perhaps recall Makeda Solomon doing Who Will Sing for Lena? But overall The Innocence of Guilt is riveting stuff. You can’t wait to hear what happened that night.
Mrs. Lynch’s testimony here is about domestic dysfunction and emotional turmoil, a marriage that goes horribly wrong, the choices and the consequences. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+