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ADRIFT: A Medieval Wayward Folly

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - December 6, 2023

The Cast
Photo by Leah Huete
ADRIFT: A Medieval Wayward Folly, a theatre piece by the exuberantly off-the-wall Happenstance Theater now on view at 59E59 Theaters, is almost as difficult to describe as it is to explain. Think of it as an absurdist concoction that is part Samuel Beckett, part Monty Python, part Lewis Carroll, part opium dream, and part Hieronymus Bosch.

It is Bosch's painting "Ship of Fools" that is said to have been the main source of inspiration for the 80-minute extravaganza that comes replete with puppetry, diviners, a doctor of questionable skill, a magician, and much musical accompaniment and singing in English, Latin, and French. Not to mention a random egg and a strawberry or two.

Per the title, the show is, indeed, a "wayward folly," one that takes place in Medieval Europe. We in the audience are, perhaps, meant to be stand-ins for an audience of less well-educated peasants of the age, seeking to be entertained through what essentially is a mixture of buffoonery meant to inspire laughter and religious instruction intended to inspire awe and reverence.

ADRIFT is full of wonders, fearful demons, angels, members of holy orders, images of hell, and an adorable goat-like critter. All of these emerge, along with that wandering egg and strawberry, at various seemingly random times throughout the performance. If there is a theme, it might have something to do with the circle of life, death, and reanimation, along with asking the frequently posed question: "What do we do now?"

Presented as a series of short, often highly entertaining, if puzzling, set pieces as performed by the talented members of the collaborative company (Gwen Grastorf, Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell, Sarah Olmsted Thomas, and Alex Vernon), ADRIFT is a decidedly go-with-the-flow sort of production. Enter with that attitude, and you will find much to delight, especially if you are prepared to hum along on cue, pose a question to the diviners, and toss your troubles out to the kindly crone, who will show you how easy it is to discard them.

ADRIFT: A Medieval Wayward Folly
Through December 24, 2023
Happenstance Theater
59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th St., New York NY
Tickets online and current performance schedule: