Review by Doug Iden of The Mystery Plays: Falcon Theatre
Is it reality? Is it a dream? Is it a Netherworld lying between the living and the dead? We are faced with these evocative questions in the current production of The Mystery Plays at the Falcon Theater. Set on a virtually empty, black stage with nothing more than some boxes and two monkey bar structures, the play unfolds as two disparate yet interrelated stories are told. The first act depicts a train passenger who becomes the sole survivor of a massive fire after he is supernaturally influenced to step from the train. He is then haunted by the ghost of a fellow passenger he had befriended on the train. In the second act, we see a woman who abandons her brother imprisoned for killing their parents and another sister. The sister, an attorney, is asked to help a group trying to reduce the prison sentence of the brother because of abusive parents. This is a show that requires your attention due to numerous twists and subtlety placed clues embedded in the action.
This is truly an ensemble cast comprised of Jered Earland, Becca Howell, Adam Jones, Simon Powell, Nicole Jeannine Smith and Leah Strasser who, collectively, play about 20 different parts during the show. To emphasize the impact of the ensemble, the playbill lists the actor’s names but does not associate their names with the many characters they play. This makes it difficult for a reviewer to highlight individual performances but it frees the performers to seamlessly morph between the characters. The ensemble cast is “ terrorific”.
Director Lindsey Augusta Mercer builds a palpable feeling of dread and unease throughout the production. Frequently, there is a “Greek Chorus” of faceless ghouls stomping around the stage. The sense of impending doom is heightened by the costumes designed by Tara Williams with black hoodies and coats that have a skeleton etched on the back. When the hoodies are worn, there is a striking resemblance to the iconic image of Death.
The show does have humor, however, as it balances the horrific with the ironic and is one of those plays that stays with you. Many plays are seen, enjoyed and then forgotten. You won’t easily forget The Mystery Plays. So embrace your inner Stephen King and see this production playing at the Falcon Theater through November 21.