by Cynthia Wands

The program of ADRIFT A WAYWARD MEDIEVAL FOLLY by Happenstance Theater at Theater 59 in December 2023. It wouldn’t be the Middle Ages without a hellmouth, demons, and angels.

This past December I traveled to New York to spend the holiday with family, see some theatre, and pause the grief that I’m living in. I had a wonderful visit, was enveloped in love and care with my family, saw some marvelous plays, and the grief came along as an uninvited companion.

Grief doesn’t take kindly to holidays.

Actually, let me rewrite that ~ grief becomes an especially noisy companion at holidays. It has a running dialogue of every new experience: commenting on how it feels/knows/judges anything new or unexpected. Grief talks.

It was especially evident when my sister took me to see an unknown play called ADRIFT at Theater 59 produced by the Happenstance Theater. I wasn’t at all familiar with this theater group and their mission for the show was intriguing. Take a look:

The audience was packed, and brought back the memories of performing in small theaters, the intimacy of seeing/feeling/breathing together (especially in days of Covid). You could feel the buzz as people took off their coats, crowded together in their seats, and the music and lights changed.

It was magical. I love being surprised – and there were some epic surprises in this production. Based on the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, we watched vignettes on death, The Oracle Who Answers Your Questions, and regeneration. The puppets, the mime work of the artists onstage, and the design elements were wonderful. Portions of it reminded me of the tableau vivant entertainments of the 19th century; some of it reminded me of the Renaissance Fairs of San Francisco back in the 1980’s, and some of it was just uniquely its own. More of a pastiche of skits than a script, the dialogue was sparse, but the imagery was inspired.

There were moments in the production that portrayed death or loss that were hard to experience (that voice of grief reminded me), but several weeks later, I’m still remembering the effects of this show and its artistry.

It was a wonderful visit to see this version of black box theater, and to be part of an audience again.

Theater 59 in New York City

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