By Holli Harms
Stories of the Bible reimagined. What if they were to have happened in this century? To people who look like us and talk like us? And what is the aftermath, especially the emotional aftermath, of these people who lived some of the most horrific stories from the Bible? How would they survive and deal with the traumas brought on by God’s will? This is the premise behind Tristan Bernays’ Testament now streaming online with 59E59 Street Theater Company’s East To Edinburgh. You know the tales, they are some of the most known in the Bible but the characters are not the major ones but the minor ones who take a back seat to the narrative. This is their story, the ones who were so affected and whose voices have never been able to describe why they acted as they did or what they were thinking and feeling, and how these biblical acts changed their lives forever.
Told in a series of monologues and two-person short scenes the play runs a little over an hour. It is a meeting not unlike an AA or other group meeting where those in attendance have lived similar experiences. Here they are the Bible’s lesser eulogized characters meeting to tell each other their tale and what it did to them psychologically. I am not going to divulge what stories are restated as I believe it is part of the experience for you the viewer to piece together the story being retold and the character who is telling it. Mr. Bernays had tremendous success with his reimagining of Frankenstein that played at CSC just months before Covid took us all out of the theatre, and he has once again succeeded in a compelling and original piece that has us reconsidering the Bible and its tales. Testament looks at the death penalty, belief, faith, incest, sacrifice, forgiveness, and love in the modern world.
The performances are exceptional, beautiful, and intense. Each character trying hard to understand what happened to them or is going to happen with true believability. Redemption, understanding, healing, are all moved forward by songs meant to serve as hymns that help build trust and love and community. Lucy Jane Atkinson’s direction is a simple allowance for these excellent actors to do their work and stay out of their way with anything extra but some lovely lighting choices and camera moves. It is filmed as if it were a short film but it still maintains its theatricality and nuance.
For a $20 festival pass you can get a front-row virtual seat to the virtual performance of Testament and all the other eight shows that are part of 59E59 Street Theatre’s East to Edinburgh Goes Virtual event.
59E59 presents Via Brooklyn Theatre Co’s
TESTAMENT by Tristan Bernays, Directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson
Production team: Executive Producers: Ian Harkins, Cori Hundt, and Rafe Terrizzi, Associate Producers: Jack Collard and Danielle Joy, Director of Photography: Jessica Bennett, Editor: Béla Baptiste, Casting Director: Destiny Lilly, Production Manager: Nikolas George Brown, Costume, Hair, and Makeup Design: Carla Posada, Sound Design: Chaim Rubenstein, Props and Set Design: Rafe Terrizzi, Music Director: Desireé Rodriguez, Dramaturg: Ana Verde, Sensitivity Reader: Shannon Harris, Key Grip: Edward Herrera, Gaffer: Ariel Nehorayoff, Camera Assistant: Marina King, Colorist: Eli Freireich, Sound Mixer: Nic Heese, Graphic Design: Kyra Tantao, Cover Compliance Company: Safe Production Services
The 2021 curated line-up, which features nine shows, begins streaming on July 15 for a limited engagement through July 25. The shows are available on-demand at the 59E59 Theaters website. The $20 ($18 for 59E59 Members) festival pass gives one household access to all nine shows. The pass, which is available now, can be purchased via www.59e59.org.
Online Running Time: one Hour