This is the New York City premiere of The Mysteries, a melding of medieval theatrical texts and work by modern writers, all based on Biblical tales. These "cycles" took New and Old Testament stories out of the church and into the fairground. The company includes Bill Buell, Mario Campanaro, Micahel Potts, Carmen Roman, John Rothman, Jennifer Roszell, Michael Stuhlbarg, Sam Tsoutsouvas and Chandler Williams.
CSC's artistic director Kulick stages the epic stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac, Noah's Flood and Christ's Passion "as seen by writers from the 12th through the 21st Centuries, including such noted authors as Nobel-prize winner Dario Fo, Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov and Yugoslavian dissident writer Borislav Pekic."
A 2003 production of The Mysteries played at The Actors' Gang Theatre in Los Angeles, where Kulick's work was lauded. The piece is a rare window in theatre history — when is the last time you saw medieval English and European "mystery plays" performed?
Mystery plays, seen in England and Europe, were spoken rather than sung and were presented outdoors in common language as opposed to Latin. Essentially, they were secularly presented dramas on Biblical themes. Typically, a series of plays were presented at once, each based on a different bible story. The shows were often performed on a series of pageant wagons connected to one another. The wagon trains would pay calls at several different locations throughout the city, performing at each stop. A variety of trade guilds would sponsor the plays. The authors' names have been lost to time.
The Mysteries is drawn from the Wakefield and York mystery plays seen in medieval England. The first part of The Mysteries includes New and Old Testament tales from the York and Wakefield cycles. The second half includes modern writers' versions of Christ's passion.
Performances play CSC to Feb. 15. Opening is Jan. 22.
Designers are Mark Wendland (scenic), Kevin Adams (lighting), Mattie Ullrich (costumes) and Darron L West (sound).
Kulick's past work includes The Public Theater's Central Park stagings of Twelfth Night, The Winter's Tale and Timon of Athens.
CSC is now in its 36th season and remains, as its mission states, devoted to "re-imagining the classics for New York audiences and contributing to the American theatre with innovative works of outstanding merit." CSC "believes the works of the past are meaningful, relevant, and indeed essential to the world of today. Taking the broadest view of what constitutes a classic, CSC explores the literature of many periods and diverse cultures. Celebrating the living impulses that make classic stories endure, CSC creates vibrant contemporary theater that speaks vividly and directly to today, allowing audiences to understand in striking new ways how the shared human experience resonates across time."
Tickets for The Mysteries are available at Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200. For information about CSC membership or to purchase member tickets call (212) 677 4210.
Classic Stage Company presents at 136 E. 13th Street. For more information, visit www.classicstage.org.
"I think of a classic as a work that inherently knows what theatre is and what theatre does," Kulick told Playbill On-Line earlier this season. "And you find that with the Greeks, with Shakespeare, with Moliere, with these medieval writers. You find that with Chekhov, Tony Kushner — they are interested in the medium...the medium is the message."