July 28, 1935 – Jan. 23, 2020
Mary Loftus was an indomitable Buffalo actor whose reputation for stellar performances of complex characters earned her critical acclaim regionally.
Loftus died in hospice care Thursday after a short illness. She was 84.
Born and raised in Buffalo, Ms. Loftus graced the local theater scene in acting roles that spanned roughly 30 years and went on to review countless other performances in retirement.
Ms. Loftus was the youngest of three children by many years and lived through difficult times as a child and young adult, which her daughter Katie Hadrovic said likely served as inspiration for many of her future roles on stage. Ms. Loftus' oldest brother left to serve in World War II and her next-oldest brother died in an accident at age 14. Her parents also divorced, and her father died young.
She had three daughters, married and remarried four times and lived life on her own terms, said friends and relatives.
From drama to comedy, Ms. Loftus excelled. Her performances include her "marvelous" role as the intrepid Niagara Falls daredevil Annie Edson Taylor in "Over the Falls" in 1991 to her role as the "emotionally manipulative" Mag in "Beauty Queen of Leenane" in 2009. Ms. Loftus once described Mag as "the old lady you would like to have killed many years ago."
"She packed a wallop in some of those really meaty rolls," Hadrovic said of her mother. "When I think about some of the things she endured in her life, she had a lot to draw on."
A graduate of Bishop McMahon High School, Ms. Loftus spent most of her working career as a legal secretary and paralegal for area law firms including Kavinoky Cook and Collins & Collins.
But it was her presence on stage and ability to assume remarkable character roles for which she is most remembered. Ms. Loftus took up acting roles as early as the 1960s and made her community stage debut in the early 1980s. She would continue to appear in productions and earn critical accolades through roughly 2010. A search of Buffalo News theater reviews dating back to the late 1980s herald Loftus' performances over and over, heaping praise on her acting gifts.
In 2009, she won the Artie Award of Best Supporting Actress for her role in the New Phoenix production of "Beauty Queen of Leenane." She was also a strong supporter of gay rights and Buffalo United Artists, contributing her "unbelievable and chameleonlike" talents to productions like "Making Gay History," a two-hour montage of 60 years of gay history, in 2005. Beyond the local area, Ms. Loftus acted in Ithaca's Kitchen Theater.
Longtime Buffalo News reviewer Anthony Chase recalled Ms. Loftus as a colorful – sometimes cantankerous – personality, whose talent and generosity are equally well remembered.
"She could be awful in rehearsal, but then once the production would open, she would remember the entire process as being 'heaven,' " he said.
He also recounted her role in the Irish Classical Theatre Company production of Brian Friel's comedy "Lovers" at Alleyway Theatre in 1991 in which she plays a middle-aged woman whose attempts to make out with her lover were repeatedly interrupted, once unexpectedly when the couple's sofa prop collapsed beneath them. Ms. Loftus swore at the couch and threw herself at her lover with even greater ardor, leaving her audience roaring with laughter, Chase recalled.
Ms. Loftus was also known for writing her own theater reviews. Former Buffalo News arts critic Colin Dabkowski recently shared one to her Facebook page in which Loftus described the 2010 Kavinoky Theatre production of "Yankee Tavern" like this: "Broke out of house arrest to attend 2:00 showing of YANKEE TAVERN at Kavinoky Theatre along with all the blue hairs and suspicious blondes. Cannot even begin to tell you what this was about – conspiracy theories on top of conspiracy theories! BUT THE ACTING! OH, THE ACTING WAS SUPERB!!!"
Ms. Loftus' survivors include her daughters, Kristi Lucchese, and Hadrovic and Brenda Merriman.
A theater tribute for Loftus is being planned for next month at Alleyway Theatre.
"It will be loving," Chase said, "and it will not be sanitized."