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Story of Typhoid Mary Comes to Life as Queen City Theater Opens at Carnegie

There really was a Typhoid Mary and always-watchable pro actress Jennifer Joplin takes the title role in a regional premiere when Queen City Theater crosses the river to The Carnegie in Covington, to make its Northern Kentucky debut, though October 8.

Typhoid Mary is the first play in Queen City’s edgy, contemporary, three-play 2017-18 season.

It’s the quirky “story behind the story” of Mary Mallon, who, as an Irish immigrant cook in the first decade of the 20th century, infected more than 20 people in several affluent households with typhoid.

Queen City artistic director Lyle Benjamin says he’s always been attracted to “stories that are ripped from the headlines.”

In the beginning it’s a mystery – what is the source of the outbreak of the highly infectious disease? As the list of suspects (including bad plumbing and bad shellfish) narrowed, Mallon came into focus.

An “asymptomatic carrier”, Mallon showed no signs of it herself. When she was identified as the source of the disease she was quarantined for 21 years on an island off the coast of Manhattan. One tabloid of the era dubbed her “the most dangerous woman in America” and she was given a nickname – Typhoid Mary. (There’s a cartoon of her in her apron at the stove, cracking skulls into her skillet.)

In Typhoid Mary, Mallon’s dramatic story is leavened with comedy (Think: sight gags and supporting characters (played by Robert Carlton Stimmel and Cathy Springfield) that include the Virgin Mary, perhaps to better ask questions that are still relevant a century later).

“Before Ebola, before Zika, there was typhoid," says Benjamin. “Tom Horan’s play sheds light on a time when medicine was practiced differently and shows parallels to problems we still face today.” Those problems include how we treat the afflicted, and how media hysteria can induce panic.

Never heard of Queen City Theater? It’s been an itinerant indie theater on the Ohio side of the river for more than 15 years. Audiences who watch for it have been rewarded by consistently intriguing scripts and strong casting.

Benjamin sees Typhoid Mary as a play that shows Queen City’s strengths: an intimate theater experience, roles that allow actors to shine, and a story that engages audiences, and that puts an emphasis on “humor and heart.”

Typhoid Mary, through Oct. 8. Queen City Theatre Company, The Carnegie, 1028 Scott Blvd., Covington. 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 Sunday. Tickets $29. 859-957-1940 and, and at the theater.

The rest of the Queen City season:

The Bomb-itty of Errors, Dec. 1-17. The “hip hop ad-rap-tation” of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors won the Grand Jury Prize at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. Four actors and a DJ re-tell the farce about two sets of identical twin masters and servants unaware of each others’ existence and causing endless confusion.

The Body of an American, March 2-18. Inspired by war correspondent Paul Watson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of an American soldier being dragged from the wreck of a Blackhawk through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia.

Two actors take the action from Rwanda to Afghanistan to the Canadian Arctic, exploring the political and emotional upheaval that Watson experienced and the traumatic effect that war has on all of us. Winner of the Horton Foote Prize for Outstanding New Play, the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama, and the L. Arnold Weissberger Award.

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts 

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