Theater archives

15th Century Meets Pottery Barn in Creature


Don’t worry that the set of Heidi Schreck’s Creature invokes both the 15th century and a Pottery Barn franchise; it’s an appropriate choice. This virtual mashup, directed by Leigh Silverman, retells the story of controversial Middle English visionary Margery Kempe (Sofia Jean Gomez) in the vocabulary of a Park Slope thirtysomething trying to balance work, faith, sex, and motherhood. The contemporary speech patterns make Kempe, driven by a vision of Christ to seek canonization despite her bourgeois background, sound as whinily impatient as Reese Witherspoon in Election. “I’m going to become a saint!” she tells Father Thomas (Jeremy Shamos). But holiness isn’t American Idol, he implies—”Catherine of Siena drank the pus of lepers. Would you do that?”

Schreck’s juxtaposition of the modern middle class and the Middle Ages could be funnier, but in a shaky effort to acknowledge the real Kempe’s humanity, the production lurches between lampooning her shallow side and sentimentally lauding her spirituality. The Winslet-like Gomez gets no blame; she whizzes through the character’s inconsistencies like an Olympic luge champ. And loose-limbed Marylouise Burke’s ninth-inning appearance as fellow visionary Julian of Norwich (renamed “Juliana” here to emphasize her female-ness) provides a burst of humor and balance that proves almost revelatory.

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