By Victoria L. Dammer

The four canonical Gospels mention one woman more than most of the Apostles, and director, playwright, and actor Sylvia Milo brings a celestial celebration of this extraordinary woman, Mary Magdalene, in her solo performance of Magdalene: I Am The Utterance of My Name.

Throughout history, both praise and vilification have surrounded Magdalene. In 591, Pope Gregory I claimed she was a prostitute as if to diminish her importance. Throughout history, as we are aware, the male hierarchy has oppressed women, and Magdalene was no exception. But just as Jesus exorcised seven demons from Magdalene, Milo presents seven scenes of this historical figure known as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

If Jesus adored her, who are we to ignore her?

Magdalene traveled with Jesus’s ministry and was present at his crucifixion, a witness to his burial, and one of the first to arrive at his empty tomb. Milo performs soul-stirring scenes from portions of her life such as Witness, Prostitute, and Hermit, and her interpretation transfixed the audience.

Nathan Davis, music and sound director, used soundscape techniques to perform spellbinding and mystical tunes using props like sifting sand through his fingers and rhythmically splashing water. Davis’s use of the Zither was sensual. Magdalene was probably a very complex and unusual woman in her time, and Milo portrayed her as tender, weak, strong, and carnal.

Milo, a gifted actor, received the 2018 Fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation in Italy and got the Fellowship at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York, where she developed Magdalene. She is also a graduate of NYU.

Although the production is unlike any play I have experienced, which is refreshing, as a Christian, the overall modern interpretation of a story so deep in Biblical tradition drew me in. Milo’s performance deserves nothing but admiration, and the audience warmly welcomed her invitation to take part in a circle, sharing their thoughts on Magdalene. Milo’s natural ability to open our minds to the depths of our inner thoughts made the evening a celebration of Magdalene’s worthy praise.

Magdalene: I Am The Utterance of My Name, presented by Little Matchstick Factory and HERE Arts Center. Created and performed by Sylvia Milo and Nathan Davis. Movement direction by Janice Orlandi; Choreography by Natalie Lamonte; Video and projection design by Monica Duncan; Costume design by Magdalena Dabrowska; press by John David West.