In addition to the actors, John Lee Beatty’s set and Isabella Byrd’s lights are the stars Epiphany, a play set in “a very old house, on the banks of a big river, just north of a big city”. While audiences are watching David Watkins’ show at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater (which opens tonight, through July 24), it is assumed that we are somewhere out, somewhere like Hudson, or another enclave. conveniently out of the state of New York.
Either way, the setting and lighting are sumptuous and inviting: large windows, trinkets, candles, nice tables, massive staircase. The snow falls softly outside the windows, the lights go on and off. At the beginning of the game, with no characters visible, the curtains move slightly due to the invisible wind and an obsession is implied. And yes, this is a ghost show, as well as a show with a very lively and entertaining group of guests brought together by host Morkan (Marylouise Burke).
Not a typical group dinner, it turns out. Burke, as Morkan, has sent guests a list of instructions, which provide much hilarity as no one seems to have read or received his diktats – this is particularly, terribly obvious when a song needs to be sung and Kelly (Heather Burns) seems desperately into thin air to evoke the words or the melody. Burke is the bright and quirky and whimsical host for the whole night, with Watkins superimposing her words and her guests’ words on top of each other.
Who speaks, who answers, what is said, becomes a polyphonic mash-up, funny at the beginning and masterfully made by the actor, but also, after a bit of repetitive din, a bit exhausting. It’s not a dinner from hell, but it’s an all-too-plausible dinner of harmless and slightly unbearable people trying to get sharp words and drunk down their throats.
Loren (Colby Minifie), a gluten-free vegan now grappling with a goose-based meal filled with dietary dangers, has been accused of opening doors for guests, with a complicated ad system to keep Morkan up to speed. about who is phoning bell. Shouts and greetings collide, as the stage is variously empty and a messy arena of hasty greetings, coats thrown away, and drinks spilled. Have everything you likesays Morkan, when in reality only gin and wine seem to be ready for delivery.
We observe the struggles for social position, conversations blossom and die, glasses of wine are poured and the general wall of blah as the group tries to orient themselves on this mysterious evening. Your heart flutters as Morkan dashes up and down the stairs and into the kitchen in a whirlwind of landlord duties and determined plots. Keep it standingyou think, as it runs here and there.
Freddy (CJ Wilson) arrives, who seems to be unable to find his place, but still catches our attention. Kelly and Charlie (Francois Battiste) and Sam (Omar Metwally, yes Deal fans, Dr. Vik lives, now with a beard, and a psychiatrist!) and Taylor (David Ryan Smith) provide couple jokes and jokes, and Ames (Jonathan Hadary) a touch of quiet urbanity.
Amidst laughter and chatter, Morkan says the party will be held on the occasion of the Epiphany, that post-Christmas party typically held on the first Sunday after January 1. This party has the ghost of him, Gabriel, who is eagerly awaited, not only his presence, but also a speech on the Epiphany at the assembly that he has to deliver. But he is not present and another mystery is where Morkan’s sister Julia is located.
“Our imaginations have atrophied … We have become disinterested in the complexities of humanity …“
– Aran in “Epiphany”
The work deepens, or at least its title appears more significantly, on the confusion and disagreement about what the feast of the Epiphany means, what the word itself means and whether the three Maji that are at the center of the biblical story are the same three wise men. And, as Morkan says, does anyone score it? “How a vacation works to die? “Tonight, she is determined to resurrect it and its meaning, although no one is clear how or why.
A Gabriel-related stranger, Aran (Carmen Zilles), arrives, wrapped in the kind of clothing that distinctly looks like Maji, speaking of the kind of holistic, healing wisdom that a Maji might be expected to speak. The party’s symbolic and metaphorical totems become more real and pronounced as she addresses her fellow guests. Something about her, not just her dress, is otherworldly. “We’ve reduced our entire existence to what can be quantified, classified or monetized and see what happened,” she tells her fellow guests. “Our imagination has atrophied … We have disinterested in the complexities of humanity, grouping people and ideas according to their outward appearances as opposed to theirs inner depth. ”
Dinner is served (and Morkan’s recitation of what’s on the table is as poetically delightful as it is physically). From this moment on, even though poor Ames suffers the kind of horrific accidental injury that elicits a common howl from the audience, the show takes a difficult turn from a lovable and heartbreaking social comedy to a deeper meditation on social mores, with Loren who delivers a passionate speech about the need for a broader cultural change. Other characters lead the conversation on the themes of mortality, the passage of time and creativity. Then the pain shines in a painful sight.
Difficult twists and turns may be necessary and inevitable to delve into the comedy’s title, but the previous fun and chatter seems distant as the seriousness of the comedy settles like the cloak of the night out. EpiphanyGhosts become real, painfully. The party becomes a séance, a convocation, a farewell and a reaffirmation of life. There is, as you might expect, in a game called Epiphanymore than an epiphany this Epiphany, and, just as at the beginning of the show when the ghosts of the evening were first announced, Beatty’s scenography and Byrd’s lighting reaffirm themselves like the silent stars of the evening.