The oldest of the four gospels, The Gospel of Mark was written down during Nero’s brutal persecution of “the Way.” Its aural telling endeavors to give courage to those under the thumb of oppression, something to which much of the world is subject these days.
I’m told performance consists of actual text though there are words I doubt originated in the Bible – “tracked him down?” Actor/storyteller George Drance manages to make most of the tale comprehensible and often relatable, though some religious references will be understood only by those of the faith. He humanizes the story. Perhaps in an effort to vary narration, Drance sometimes exaggerates speech, however, making it seem like parody, causing a disconnect.
Liz Swados’ contemporary music is welcome, but stops and starts with abrupt jerks. One wonders why the entire piece was not scored. Occasionally Drance will sing some of the words in a meandering, tuneless way. Oddly this doesn’t interfere with trajectory. It’s as if a zealot cannot contain himself and bursts into song.
The actor moves around his staging area with little but visual motivation, chalks X’s and amorphous shapes on the floor (why) and draws rudimentary, illustrative images on a blackboard. We don’t know until reading the program that the latter is supposed to depict a street artist – not that it would’ve made much difference. Dispensing with floor marks would lose nothing.
Lighting by Adrian Yuen is even jerkier than music. It flashes colors and blinks almost arbitrarily making it seem as if characters are constantly running from police, applicable only towards the end. There’s no subtlety or calm when the chronicle leans that way.
Jacqueline Lucid directs with variety- exceptions are noted.
George Drance meets this challenge with energy, focus, and instinctive serenity when speaking for Jesus.
Photos by Irina Island Images
A note from the Artistic Director: Mark is the oldest of the four Gospels. It was recited before it was written down. Its bare-bones message inspired a terrorized people who needed its consolation “immediately”… Its direct style made it possible to tell the whole story in one gathering. Itinerant storytellers risked much to proclaim it.
Christians would secretly identify themselves to one another by finishing a drawing of a fish.
Magis Theatre Company presents
mark (A solo performance of the Gospel of Mark)
Directed by Jacqueline Lucid
Original Music by Elizabeth Swados
Through April 31, 2023
315 West 47th Street