The Mysteries

May 7th, 2014

A radical retelling of The Bible

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Mary Magdalene tweeted the disciple’s secret location, tipping off the Romans. It’s okay, Jesus made her do it.

Pontius Pilate was a John Wayne impersonator.

The shepherds in their field at night were gang members.

But the most shocking thing maybe — apart from all the male and female body parts — was the Angel Gabriel being a lesbian who explained to Mary about virgin birth, “Honey, sometimes you just don’t need a man.”

I take that back; the most shocking thing was I sat through an almost six-hour long play about The Bible and loved it. But hey, they fed us dinner (vegan, gluten-free) and dessert (baklava and cupcakes).

Welcome to the off-Broadway production of The Mysteries at The Flea Theater in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood. The show was made up of 50 short plays which their website explains, told “the entire History of Man’s Salvation from The Fall of Lucifer through and including Judgment Day.”

I have never experienced any theater like it. Sure, I’ve gotten to sit on stage during Spring Awakening and have been encouraged to argue with characters in a play underneath London Bridge. Puppets having sex in Avenue Q was nothing like this either.

Written by 48 playwrights, The Mysteries unfolds in front of, behind, next to and in some cases right along with the audience. There’s no fourth wall and at one point, God (the second God of the evening) calls Jesus “Colin.” Just so you know, Colin Waitt was the actor portraying Jesus and he is sat down by his father who talks about his audition for this show.

Jesus’s real mother was in the audience too and at one point got a little friendly with a New Testament character, though I can’t quite remember which one, maybe Lazarus?

Speaking of that, the cast list is pretty funny. One guy played both “Mathias” and “Kenny.” There was also Lucifer, a Marxist, Cain, a Bad Person, an Angel Midwife, Abraham and a Certified Nursing Assistant to name just a few of the characters played by the 54 member troupe.

One of the angels pointed me out to another angel at intermission and said, “He writes the Spiritual Wanderer blog.” But she knows me. She’s Andy Miller who’s making her off-Broadway debut. We tagged along with her incredibly generous family, several of whom we’ve seen on stage countless times before.

Covering both the Old and New Testament, it’s no wonder the play took almost six hours. The breaks in between were necessary, not only for food and the potty, but to get up, stretch and chat with all the actors who milled about with the audience after serving us our dinner and dessert.

I was offered an apple during one of the intermissions by a performer who was now doubling as a waiter, but I knew enough about the Bible now that maybe it wouldn’t have been such a wise choice to accept it. I took another baklava instead.

At half-past midnight after six hours of warm, welcoming, moving moments we had to leave. Walking out of the show into the dark, deserted streets of lower Manhattan, it almost felt like we, ourselves were being cast out from the Garden (Eden, not Madison Square).

It was a fantastic experience and it makes plays like Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar look so old-fashioned, so 1970s. And no, it wasn’t trying to offend people or knock down their belief structures. Far from it. I actually came away feeling a little more in touch with the holy spirit.

In fact, I hugged him as I left the theater.

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