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Made in Heaven

Creature

Heidi Schreck's play about a 15th-century woman desperately seeking sainthood is intellectually intriguing but emotionally uninvolving.

By New York City
Jeremy Shamos and Sofia Jean Gomez in Creature
(© Jim Baldassare)
Jeremy Shamos and Sofia Jean Gomez in Creature
(© Jim Baldassare)
Heidi Schreck's new play, Creature, a co-production of Page 73 and New Georges currently performing at The Ohio Theatre, is loosely based on the 15th-century autobiography of Margery Kempe, a woman whose greatest aspiration, after seeing a vision of Jesus, was to become a saint. The play is sometimes intellectually stimulating and intriguingly presented, but, at least in Leigh Silverman's production, it has little or no cumulative dramatic impact.

Margery (Sofia Jean Gomez) pursues sainthood with a fiery, obsessive determination that isn't unlike the fame-seekers of today. She's even unmoved when her husband John (Darren Goldstein) tells her that the townsfolk are scandalized that she's taken to wearing the white dresses that signify virginity. In fact, she responds by decreeing that he will no longer be getting any in the bedroom.

Her lust for fame is greatly tempered by what seems to be an honest desire for purity and spiritual enrichment. She looks to a priest (Jeremy Shamos in the show's standout performance) for higher guidance, she grows uncomfortable with the fawning worship of a mysterious young man (Will Rogers in an affected turn) and seems to form a bond of recognition with one of the town elders (Marylouise Burke) whose response to a holy visitation as a young woman was to spend the rest of her life in seclusion awaiting another.

Margery's impulse for divine good is challenged by her human vanity and ambition, a conflict that ought to make her a fascinating, nuanced character. But the Margery we see on stage is less a fleshed-out person with contradictions than an unconvincing contrivance. Both Gomez's performance and the character's dialogue, especially in the play's earliest scenes, seem to invite us unproductively into a guessing game as to whether Margery's worst human instincts are a kind of demonic possession, an idea that puts the character at a remove from audience identification.

The characters speak in mostly contemporary idioms and move on stage with modern physicality, often costumed in sneakers in contrast to the plain garments that suggest the period. While these deliberately anachronistic choices seem intended to emphasize both the continued relevance of the theme and to draw current-day associations with our heroine's behavior, we aren't given a reason to connect emotionally with Margery. Indeed, while the themes in Creature intrigue, too often, the characters do not.


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