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Halloween's Over but the Macabre Lives on at Falcon Theater's "Mystery Plays"

Halloween has passed, but there’s an undertone of the macabre to The Mystery Plays at Falcon Theatre, playing weekends through Nov. 21 in Newport.
 
Macabre is suited to its pop-meister playwright/TV writer (Glee, Big Love) and comic book (Marvel, Archie) writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who counts the books of musicals Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and American Psycho among his credits.
 
The Mystery Plays are connected one-acts. The Filmmaker’s Mystery is about a horror films director who survives a terrible train wreck -- only to be haunted by the ghost of one of the passengers who didn’t survive. In Ghost Children, a woman travels to a small town in rural Oregon to make peace with the man who brutally murdered her parents. 
 
The playwright uses his plot to attempt to bring the medieval mystery play to the 21st century, with the genre’s profound themes: the mysteries of death, the afterlife, religion, faith, and forgiveness.
 
“We play with skeletal silhouettes,” notes director Lindsey Mercer, with sculptural elements in the set design intended to suggest skin and bone. And there’s the fabric element which, for the fanciful, might hint at muscle attached to the human frame. 
 
Mercer has been a fixture in local indie theater as an actor, director, vocalist, musician and producer since she arrived in the area two years ago. She was the assistant director for Cincinnati Shakespeare last season and directed a park tour; her credits also include concert:nova, New Edgecliff, and Diogenes theaters and she’s co-founder of Queen City Queer Theatre Collective, which presents monthly staged readings in Over-the-Rhine. As a singer and musician, she’s been in the bands for 100 Days at Know and One Man, Two Governors at Cincinnati Shakespeare. 
 
The Mystery Plays is a comfortable fit for Mercer. She likes “minimalistic” scripts with “large concepts.” Here she’s dealing with so many things that can’t be explained, adding to the above list “coincidence, time and our relationship to whatever force is out there.”
 
The human anatomy immediately came to mind when she was reading the script as something that speaks to mortality and is the vessel that “houses our soul and spirit.”
 
Aguirre-Sacasa wrote The Mystery Plays when he was thirtyish and Mercer thinks it’s a natural for younger adult audiences. “It’s stylized and stylish,” she says. “The origin stories of superheroes” are hinted at, and she adds, “The great superpower is forgiveness.”
 
The play also embraces the “quarter-life crisis,” Mercer laughs, that time in life when “there’s a shift in your mindset, you’re establishing yourself, you’re becoming an adult.”
 
Coming up for Mercer: she’s already in rehearsal for Cincinnati Shakespeare’s holiday show As You Like It (she’s also composing original music) and she’ll direct The Last Five Years at The Carnegie. 
 
The Mystery Plays, Nov. 6-21. Falcon Theatre. Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Tickets $20, students $15. 513-479-6783 and here (Service fee for online orders.
 
*Queen City Queer Theatre Collective celebrates its first anniversary on Nov. 9 with a cabaret at Below Zero in Over-the-Rhine. Artists from the first season of readings will perform pieces (songs, scenes, monologues) they wouldn’t conventionally be cast for. For information visit its Facebook page.
 
Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts