The Mysteries

Credit: Jonathan Hollingsworth

Credit: Jonathan Hollingsworth

The resident acting company of the Flea Theatre is the BATS. I am crazy for them all.

The 355 page script, authored by 48 writers, for The Mysteries reminded me a little of US History in high school. We spent eternity on the white folks arriving and bringing the one true God – democracy was a bonus prize – to the heathens. Then another eternity on the Revolutionary War. A chunk of change was devoted to the Industrial era and all THOSE white men who made big progress while shitting on other folks. Then on to the Civil War, for another stretch of time because who can get enough Lincoln. At which point it was spring. The few weeks remaining before school let out was a mad dash through the next hundred or so years. The war, the depression and the wars again.

Mysteries does this in reverse. These are all Biblical stories, that take us from a tad before “In The Beginning,” to “Jesus is risen – now what?” The first act covers Genesis and hurtles straight through to Mary and Joseph’s flight into Egypt without stopping to breathe. About a bazillion years. The second act covers Jesus’ life from the time he was found arguing in the temple as a boy to his arrest – roughly 20 years. The third act covers the crucifixion to Paul’s assumption of the direction of Christianity – a few years – and then morphs into Jesus meeting God and the need to bestow blessings on us all.

The plays vary in strength, but for the most part give us these icons as people. So relentless is this assault that over time that sinks in. Iskander is an extraordinary director who can move from a choreographed mob scene to a heart breaking moment of intimacy with ease and grace. He has created a place where each actor blossoms in each role – from the most ambitious, that of Jesus (Colin Waitt) to the rarely scene but always felt Lucifer (Asia Kate Dillon) to the Angel Chorus. Each actor understands how the pieces fit together. The execution is nothing short of astonishing.

The writing in the first two acts is crisp, to the point and out of the box. In Falling For You Lucifer and Gabriel (Alice Allemano) bicker over God’s favor, Lucifer arguing for the advantage of thought and Gabriel arguing for total submission. Guess who wins? Lucifer’s last words to God? I’m falling for you. We are put on notice that attention must be paid. Noah’s wife is stir crazy. And let’s not forget the collateral damage from that flood. Pharos’s daughter takes Moses home as an act of rebellion. Mary must convince a contemporary doctor that she is a virgin, when all she really wants to do is graduate from high school. The three shepherds are teenagers getting stoned and thinking large thoughts about the universe until one of them tells her brother she can’t be alone with their mother’s boyfriend. Soldiers sent to kill babies balk. Lucifer, who pines for Jesus herself, prophesizes that nothing Christ says will be recorded verbatim in his own tongue.

There is mysticism coupled with eroticism. Mary Magdalene is in everyone’s face and takes no prisoners. She is the rock that Jesus leaves behind. The Apostles fight the decision to go to Jerusalem after Lazarus is raised from the dead because they know it means somebody is going to be killed. His entrance to the city is posted on social media. Jesus asks Judas to betray him. The Last Supper actually has funny moments (thanks to Alex J. Gould). At Gethsemane Jesus puts in a call to God and is told that God is busy. Herod (a spectacular Alesandra Nahodil) is all whips, stilettos and leather. Mrs. Pilate is a born PR person and is definitely the boss of Mr. Pilate. Remorse does not save Judas.

Then in Act 3 everything slowly runs out of gas. The actors are still splendid and the direction spot on. It is the writing that suffers from being preachy and precious. It is one thing to cast a new light on Genesis and Jesus life before the crucifixion, but these writers take on a different tone when it comes to the resurrected Jesus. No one wants to lay a hand on that one. The narrative becomes confusing. Mary (Allison Buck) doesn’t want to die, and it takes more than one scene to get her to ascend into Heaven only to stay long enough for a quick hello to her son. The show seems about to end several times. However there are nuggets even here. There is a terrific scene when doubting Thomas (A. J. Ditty) doubts no more. As well there is some attention given to the fate of the Apostles (not good) and to the usurping of Christianity by Paul – the latter day saint of questionable intentions. But on the whole the third act is syrupy and over written. The piece closed with a sermon of the senses by Jesus (Colin Waitt is terrific throughout) who tells us he has no idea what will happen, but there are some pretty terrific things in this world, and God, after all, is good.

In spite of the deflated third act this is a terrific experience. Remember you get fed TWICE, and the actors eventually wear down your resistance to interacting with strangers by being congenial and talented. It is an extraordinary creation.

 

Drinks all around.

 

 

THE FLEA THEATER The Mysteries – by

 

Act I – The Fall

Dael Orlandersmith……..Song of the Trimorph (Lucifer’s Lament)

Liz Duffy Adams…………………………………………….Falling for You

Jason Williamson……………………The Eighth Day (Creation Hymn)

Johnna Adams……………………………………………………God’s Rules

Madeleine George………………………..A Worm Walks into a Garden,

or The Fall of Man

Jorge Ignacio Cortinas……………………………………Right of Return

David Henry Hwang…………………………………………..Cain and Abel

Trista Baldwin………………………………………………………….Build It

Mallery Avidon………………………………………………………The Flood

Nick Jones……………………………………………Fruitful and Begettin’

Matthew Stephen Smith………………………………..Bright New Devil

Ann Marie Healy……………………………………………The Moses Story

CollaborationTown…………………………………………..The Prophecy

Jordan Harrison…………………………………………The Annunciation

Kate Gersten……………………………..Joseph’s Troubles About Mary

Kimber Lee……………………………………………………The Shepherds

Kate Moira Ryan……………………………………………….King of Kings

Chris Dimond……………………………The Slaughter of the Innocents

Kenneth Lin…………………………………………..The Flight into Egypt

 

Act Ii – The Sacrifice

Erin Courtney…………………………………………Christ with the PhDs

CollaborationTown………………………………….Jesus Grows Up Fast

Craig Lucas………………………………….New Periods of Pain Part I

A. Rey Pamatmat………………………………..Something in the Water

Billy Porter/Kirsten Greenidge……………………….Transfiguration

Max Posner……………………………….The Woman Taken in Adultery

Amy Freed………………………………………….The Raising of Lazarus

Gabriel Jason Dean…………………………….Jesus Enters Jerusalem

CollaborationTown……………………………………Turning the Tables

Yussef El Guindi…………………………………………..The Conspiracy

Jeff Whitty………………………………………………….The Last Supper

José Rivera……………………………..The Garden of Tears and Kisses

Bess Wohl……………………………………………….The Denial of Peter

Qui Nguyen…………………………………………….Christ Before Herod

Marc Acito………………………………………………………….Judgment?

Sevan K. Greene………………………………………………..The Remorse

Jenny Schwartz……………………………………….The Road to Calvary

 

Act III – The KINGDOM

Craig Lucas………………………………….New Periods of Pain Part II

Don Nguyen……………………………………………The Death of Christ

Lucas Hnath…………………………………………The Harrowing of Hell

Bill Cain…………………………………………………………..Resurrection

Lloyd Suh…………………………………………………….The Next Supper

Ellen McLaughlin………………………………………….The Appearance

Jordan Seavey……………………………………………Thomas Doubting

(or, Doubting Thomas Doubts His Doubt)

Billy Porter/Kirsten Greenidge……………………………….Ascension

Meghan Kennedy………The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene

Sean Graney…………………………………………………………Pentecost

Eisa Davis……………………………….Walking Away from the Mirror

and Forgetting What You Looked Like

Lillian Groag……………………………………………..The Death of Mary

Najla Said………………………………………..The Assumption of Mary

Laura Marks…………………………………………………The Coronation

Michael Mitnick……………………………………….The Last Judgment

José Rivera………………………………………….Sermon of The Senses

 

Angel Chorus

Julia Anrather, Matthew Bovee, Jessica Cannizzaro, Anna Dart,

Jacklyn Rae DellaTorri, Julie Ann Earls, Anya Gibian,

Lauren Hayes, Adelind Horan, Sarah Keyes, Jessie MacBeth,

Andy Miller, Emily Nash, Rebeca Rad, Ned Riseley, Brittane

Rowe, Xan Russell, Sarah M. White

 

Justin Ahdoot………………………………………………….Kenny, Mathias

Alice Allemano…………………………………………………………..Gabriel

Janice Amaya…………………………………Yocheved, Mary Magdalene

Jaspal Binning…………………………………………………..Adam, Thief 1

Megan Branch………………………………Samantha, Marxist, Servant

Dominique Brillon…Myriam, Hannah, Chiding Angel, Midwife Angel

Allison Buck………………………………………………………………….Mary

Matthew Cox…………………………………………………..Abraham, John

Ricardo Davila…………………………………………………….Jude, C.N.A.

Asia Kate Dillon…………………………………………………………..Lucifer

A.J. Ditty…………………………………………………………Doctor, Thomas

Sam Garber…………………………………………Yenta, James the Great

Tyler Gardella………………………………………………………..Beelzebub

Alex J. Gould………………………………….First Person, Isaac, Matthew

Alex Haynes…………………………………………………….Justin, Andrew

Kyle Hines………………………………………..Herod Underling, Lazarus

Lindsley Howard………………………….Anna, Collie, Semiotician, Girl

Jon Huggins……………………………………………………Caiaphas, Paul

Matthew Jeffers………………………………………………………………God

Rory Kulz…………………….Ishmael, Nathan, Bartholomew, Prophet

Leemore Malka………………..Handmaiden, Becky, Farrin, Historian

Zac Moon………………………………………………………………..Al, Philip

Alesandra Nahodil)…………………………………Eve, Theologian, Herod

Karsten Otto……………………………………………………………….Joseph

Tara Pacheco……………Noah’s Wife, Debbie, Manjula, Pilate’s Wife

Eleanor Philips………………………………………..Sarah, Martha, Andy

Peter Sansbury……………………………………………………Noah, Judas

Alex Seife……………………………………Cain, John the Baptist, Pilate

Eliza Simpson………………………………….Vanessa, Mary of Bethany

Matt Stango………………………….Guard, Mick, Annas, A Bad Person

Stephen Stout……………………………………………………………….Peter

Kate Thulin……………………………………………..Hagar, Rachel, Bobby

Elijah Trichon……………………………Abel, Demon/Roman, Soldier 2,

Simon the Zealot, Another

Paul Thomas Truitt…………………………………………..James the Less

Colin Waitt…………………………………………………………………..Jesus

Ed Sylvanus Iskandar concept and direction, Jill Rafson dramaturgy. David Dabbon music direction and arrangements, David Dabbon original music Chase Brock choreography, CollaborationTown additional creative support, Michael Wieser fight direction, Amy Jo Jackson voice and text direction, Jason Sherwood scenic design Seth Reiser lighting design, Loren Shaw costume and hair design Jeremy S. Bloom sound design, Marissa Bergman props.

 

AT THE FLEA THEATER – Jim Simpson artistic director Carol Ostrow producing director, Performances run April 3 – May 25 (41 White Street between Church and Broadway in Tribeca). www.theflea.org

Tulis McCall

Author: Tulis McCall

For my money, the theatre is up there in the ten top reasons to be human. I leave my home and go sit in a dark room with complete strangers and watch actors do their stuff because I want to be inspired. I’m asking to be involved. I’m volunteering to be led down any old path they choose as long as they don’t let go of my hand. And if I see a show, and it is NOT so very good – I will try to divert you, because I don’t want you to come to the temple when the preaching isn’t up to snuff. I will bar the door, I will swing from rafters, I will yell FIRE just to set your feet on a path that does not lead to disappointment. Do something different with your evening I will say. Save your money for dinner with a friend you haven’t seen in months because you are too frigging busy. Go take a walk with your dog or your child or your significant other. Go to bed early, I will say. Don’t come to the theatre when it is less than it can be. I’m an usher snob, and that’s all there is to it.

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