“Easter Mysteries” is an Oratorio Musical utilizing
veteran Broadway actors to depict the
crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus in a unque
way: by singing the
story. On a bare stage
that only has moveable stairs and a couple of platforms for props.
And costuming that consists of full-length dresses for the
women and long robes for the men, mostly in beige, greys and
off-whites. The musical
accompaniment is basic, as well:
mostly piano, with some strategic strings.
All this minimalist staging leaves the viewer to concentrate
on the dynamics among the characters themselves, which are
Really, the primary character seems to be Peter (Keven Earley).
At the Supper, Jesus (Wallace Smith), predicts his betrayal,
but that's handled in an interesting way.
The woman who sounds the alarm in the outer courtyard about
Peter being a Galilean was previously revealed to be Peter's ex-fiancee,
whom he abandoned on his sudden follow-Jesus-wherever-He-goes foray.
She would have been willing to just pick up the engagement
where he left off, but he still feels he's now where he belongs.
(Well, that puts an interesting twist on the mystery of Peter
being married, because of the Gospel's mention of his mother-in-law:
what if he didn't really abandon a wife and family, he just broke it
off with his betrothed?)
There's certainly a minium of violence associated with the
crucifixion; Jesus expires with hardly a whimper, and no bloodshed,
including the beating, the nailing, and the spear-thrusting (whereas
movies like Mel Gibson's “The Passion of the Christ” supply
every gruesome detail). The
resurrection scene wonderfully captures the inherent confusion of
eyewitnesses seeing what they did not expect, and hearing something
they'd never heard: their
accounts vary. The
details are practically irreconcilable, and so you just throw them
all out there and let the hearers choose.
Peter, for his part, is depicted as disconsolate about Jesus'
death, as well as his own denial, but also very skeptical about the
women's testimonies. He
wonders aloud why Jesus appeared to them and not to him.
(The rest of us have often wondered the same thing.)
The post-resurrection story about Jesus asking Peter three
times if he loves Him is handled in such a way that Jesus stands
behind Peter, telling him not to turn around, so Peter still doesn't
get to see the Risen Christ for himself, as the others do, but then,
that leaves him room to develop greater faith, which he does, but
only after he's been forgiven, and also forgiven himself.
The Broadway actors not only have magnificent voices, they
know how to emote on a bare stage.
The camera work leaves something to be desired; they seem
intent on filming as if we're sitting in the audience, rather than
providing us with close-ups that would have given us better views of
the characters' facial expressions.
And it is filmed before a live audience, though, judging from
the applause, it was not a huge crowd, but more like the number you
would expect in a smallish repertory theater.
Oh, and Jesus is black. Whereas
most of the rest of the characters are white---with the exception of
one other disciple, and Cleopas' companion on the road to Emmaus.
This perhaps reflects a cultural diversity probably
represented in first-century Palestine, but it's not often that it's
depicted on film in quite this way.
The men sport modern haircuts, and the women wear make-up
(and Mary is a blonde), so they're not even trying to be
first-century authentic. But
the viewer is invited to see and hear the interaction of the
characters as the powerful dynamic that transcends the time and
space differential. And
that is the real Easter Mystery.