The Saint Plays

Here's a futile attempt to describe a kind of beauty that's really indescribable, because the evening described is the essence of the irrational, and a review is supposed to be a stab at reason. Playwright Eric Ehn is a wordsmith who employs language to shatter reason in search of more meaningful reflections in the shards. He has taken the legends of five saints — Joan of Arc (Rowena Johnson), Rose of Lima (Anna Steers), George (Arber R. Mehmeti), Barbara (Deborah Lazor), and the world premiere of a play about St. Dymphna (Rowena Johnson). Five playlets, each based on one of the saints — respectively, "Wholly Joan's," "Una Carrona," "The Freak," "Radio Elephant" and "Color Drums" — have been sculpted together by director Anne Justine D'Zmura onto a giant sand pit within this cavernous armory. Scaffolding abounds. The audience is seated on bleachers above three sides of the action. We could just as well be watching a boxing match. With live percussion, shadow puppets, and a kind of raw, vivacious theatricality that blessedly avoids the use of video and other high-tech intrusions, the vigorous ensemble puts on something like a clown show, with tones ranging from the whimsical to the macabre. "Una Carrona" is set during the 1980s genocide in El Salvador, during which Jesuits and nuns were gunned down on the streets. "The Freak" takes as its centerpiece a sweet Scandinavian girl named Gunna (Jocelyn Hall), in 1957, who inexplicably sprouts wings. The saga is told by a narrator (Beth Froehlich), which makes it one of two playlets that wrestle with the process by which experience rolls into fantasy en route to becoming legend. "Color Dream" is the most terse of the quintet — a challenging way to close out an evening that's richly textured with choreography and music, an extended fantasia and meditation on love, and despair and faith, and our quest to believe in something immortal, if not to be immortal ourselves. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7 p.m. Starts: Feb. 22. Continues through March 15, 2008