Noted Brit scripter Edward Kemp (“The Master and Margarita”) combed through a slew of medieval, church-sponsored “mystery cycles” (considered a precursor to modern drama) for this sojourn through biblical tales. Originally staged in 1997 by the Royal Shakespeare Company, “The Mysteries: The Creation” focuses primarily on Old Testament stories. Under the inventive helming of Michael Nehring, the 12-member Son of Semele Ensemble impresses with its often dazzling physical representation of the tales, if not always with its vocal communication of the text.
Aided by the imaginative sets and lights of Paul R. DeDoes, Nehring makes great use of the limited SOSE interior space, incorporating hanging pipes and narrow walkways to enable the actors to thrust themselves into the tales and at the audience from every area, floor to ceiling. This enables sumptuous visualization of the well-known biblical tales of Adam (Edgar Landa) and Eve (Dawn Hillman), Cain (Michael McCray) and Abel (Anthony Brocatto Powell), Abraham (McCray), Noah (Kyle Ingleman) and Moses (Powell).
The storylines, though performed with total commitment and fervor, occasionally get diffused when dialogue gets trampled on by the action. One example is the ingenious physical staging of Noah and the flood, sabotaged by an incomprehensible mishmash of dialogue. This is also true of Powell’s near tongue-tied offering of the Ten Commandments.
One of the ensemble’s more fluid communicators is Soren Oliver as God, whom he invests with a compelling amalgam of humor and gravity. He is particularly effective in the company of his two hard-working heavenly companions, Death (Elizabeth Clemmons) and Justice (Hillary Bauman), who do the Lord’s will with empathetic dispatch.
A highlight of the production is the Lord’s commandment that noble Abraham sacrifice his only son as an expression of his unwavering allegiance to the will of God. Tegan Ashton Cohan is hauntingly sweet as the boy who fearfully but forthrightly is willing to keep his father from incurring the wrath of God. In a sharp contrast, Cohan also impresses as the diabolically rapacious tree holding the forbidden fruit that always manages to ensnare Earth’s first couple.
The production concludes with the New Testament examination of the birth of Christ, performed as a more detailed, stand-alone one-act, including the courtship of aging, curmudgeonly Joseph (Powell) and wide-eyed immature teen Mary (Sharyn-genel Gabriel). The staging of Mary’s Immaculate Conception and subsequent delivery, with a slew of heavenly assistants, is staged with impressive flair by Nehring.
In a production that utilizes an array of physical and vocal stylings, it seems appropriate that the three Wise Men (Natalie Sander, Hillman, Cohan) move like chorus members from “The King and I” but speak like Scottish clansmen from “Brigadoon.”
“The Mysteries: The Creation” is underscored throughout by the evocative, mood-enhancing a capella vocalizations of the ensemble, arranged by Ryan Poulson. The production is performed in repertory with “The Mysteries: The Passion,” which focuses on the life and death of Christ.