The Mysteries OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

  • Mysteries
  • NY TIMES

  • TM

  • TIME OUT

  • L&S AMERICA

  • TALKIN' BWAY

Opening Night:
April 3, 2014
Closing:
July 14, 2014

Theater: The Flea Theater / 41 White Street, New York, NY, 10013

Synopsis: 

The Flea embarks on an extravaganza with 48 playwrights and 54 actors retelling the entirety of The Bible in a single night. 50 World Premiere plays telling the entire History of Man’s Salvation from The Fall of Lucifer through and including Judgment Day.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF The Mysteries

    An Abridged Version of an Age-Old Story, With a Supper (but Gluten-Free)

    Alexis Soloski

    April 21, 2014: If Ed Sylvanus Iskandar had found himself in the Garden of Eden, he would surely have eaten the forbidden fruit — then made pies from the rest of the apples and served them to all comers. Having distilled the complete works of Sophocles into a single evening of theater (These Seven Sicknesses), this ambitious, savvy young director has now commissioned more than 40 playwrights to condense the Old and New Testaments into The Mysteries, a five-and-a-half-hour event at the Flea Theater that is both gratifying and grueling. Mr. Iskandar’s venture has precedent. Mystery plays were a medieval phenomenon in which townspeople would gather in the field or marketplace to witness a series of plays running from God’s first “Let there be” to his Last Judgment. As these theatrical cycles could stretch over several days, you might even praise The Mysteries for its moderation. Of course, Mr. Iskandar does those Middle Agers one better by providing playgoers with a vegan, gluten-free meal. Dessert too. Perhaps it’s easier to justify the ways of God to men (and women) when they have full stomachs.

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF The Mysteries

    The Mysteries The Flea Theater's Bats perform an epic retelling of the greatest story ever told.

    Zachary Stewart

    April 20, 2014: "Hi, I'm Colin. I'll be playing Jesus a little later. Can I get you something to drink?" Those were the words that greeted me as I entered the Flea Theater to see The Mysteries, the latest spectacular from director Ed Sylvanus Iskandar (Restoration Comedy). That kind of affable friendliness, alloyed with a rigorous commitment to storytelling, encapsulates this 5 ½-hour biblical journey. The Mysteries is breathtaking in its scope, covering 52 episodes of the Bible, from Lucifer's fall through Judgment Day. The result is an unforgettable theatrical revitalization of these stories, a radical reclamation that can be appreciated by believers and nonbelievers alike. The Mysteries is based on medieval European mystery plays: tableaux-depicting episodes of the Bible for the benefit of a largely illiterate congregation of Christian believers. As craft guilds took responsibility for the plays (with each guild producing one), they were increasingly staged in the vernacular, with members of the community (rather than clergy) acting out the stories of Adam, Noah, John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ. This was community theater in the truest sense.

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  • TIME OUT NEW YORK REVIEW OF The Mysteries

    The Mysteries: Theater review by Helen Shaw

    Helen Shaw

    April 21, 2014: Ed Iskandar (These Seven Sicknesses, Restoration Comedy) directs another marathon Flea circus—six hours, with a dinner break—in an ambitious refashioning of stories from the Bible. Among the 48 contributing playwrights are David Henry Hwang, Craig Lucas, José Rivera, Jeff Whitty, Amy Freed, Nick Jones, Qui Nguyen, Jenny Schwartz, Billy Porter and Erin Courtney. An obvious revelation dawns while watching the valiant but wearying anthology play The Mysteries: Multiple authorship can confuse an issue. Certainly that's been true for the work's source text; The Mysteries attempts to adapt a big chunk of the Bible, from Genesis all the way to the doors of Revelation. Scholars estimate that 40 to 60 authors are represented in the Good Book, with psalm singers, Moses and Paul all strung out across1,600 years. And rather than turning their many gospels and letters and testaments into a single “greatest story” plot, conceiver-director Ed Sylvanus Iskandar has embraced complexity by commissioning 48 playwrights to tackle basic biblical highlights, then stringing their microplays together and adding breaks for songs. The results, as in the original, are mixed.

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  • LIGHTING AND SOUND AMERICA REVIEW OF The Mysteries

    Theatre in Review: The Mysteries (Flea Theatre)

    David Barbour

    April 21, 2014: Consider the following statement from the program bio of Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, director of The Mysteries: "As founding artistic director of [the theatre company] Exit, Pursued by a Bear (EPBB), he has served over 11,000 home-cooked meals over the course of staging eight labs and 40 salons (all New York premieres)." Can James Lapine or Joe Mantello say the same? Iskandar is something new, director as party giver. His productions are usually supersized in terms of length: Restoration Comedy, seen a couple of years ago at the Flea, ran well over three hours, as did These Seven Sicknesses, a mashup of the seven extant plays of Sophocles, produced at the Flea last season. Both productions came with dinner and dessert served during the intermissions by members of the cast. The Mysteries, which may be his biggest effort yet, runs over five-and-a-half hours, and once again features the amenities mentioned above. More than once, before the show and between acts, you will find yourself in conversation with a member of the company, who will remind you that if you'd like anything to drink, he or she will be happy to get it for you. Not during the play, of course: During the crucifixion of Christ, for example, their minds are obviously elsewhere.

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  • TALKIN' BROADWAY REVIEW OF The Mysteries

    The Mysteries Theatre Review by Howard Miller

    Howard Miller

    April 20, 2014: Best brush up on your Bible stories and make sure you are well rested before heading out to the Flea Theater and director Ed Sylvanus Iskandar’s breathtaking and boldly conceived production of The Mysteries, a retelling of the Old and New Testament as seen through the eyes of 48 contributing playwrights and performed by a cast of 53 over the course of six hours. Yes, it is an epic theatergoing experience, but rest assured, you will not only be thoroughly engrossed, but you also will be fed dinner and desert and generally made to feel warmly welcomed by the members of the cast, who spread out among the audience members for a friendly meet-and-greet before the program and during its two breaks. (Hi, Asia, A.J., Matthew and all the others who stopped by to say hello!). The Mysteries draws on the traditional cycle of religious “mystery plays,” dating to medieval times. As such, the evening has a decidedly Jesus-centric slant, but the Flea’s production represents a thorough reconsideration, embracing both the sacred and the profane while taking us on a journey from the Creation and the fall of Lucifer, through the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and beyond.

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