Medieval convents were places where monastic women lived ascetic and cloistered lives devoted to the solemnity of prayer and contemplation. These nuns enjoyed self-sustaining communities free of the male gaze, in which they could learn to read and write, and operate their own hierarchy absent male power. Convents were, in fact, the only institutional option for female education during the Middle Ages, providing a precious, safe space for women unlike any other.
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Jessica Dickey opens her medieval comedy at A.R.T./New York Theatres.
As we file into seats on either side of the long, narrow playing space designed by Raul Abrego, we see two women in homespun robes sitting in what looks like a medieval cloister, complete with flagstones, plantings and, in evocative projections by Katherine Freer, forever views of lavender and wheat. The illusion of eternity is shattered by the very first unquotable words spoken, as a third woman arrives breathless after climbing to the site. We quickly discern that this woman, Jill Margaret Odette , and the other two, Dimlin Annabel Capper and Bertie Amy Berryman , are contemporary pilgrims who have come to the restored convent, in the south of France, for a weeklong feminist spiritual retreat. Soon, three more — Tina Brittany Anikka Liu , Wilma Lisa Ramirez and Patti Samantha Soule — show up panting, more or less eager to surrender their unhappiness along with their cellphones. But it will not be so easy, as Mother Abbess Wendy vanden Heuvel soon tells them. No accident that those are trademarks of Ms. It is here that a pall of predictability begins to descend on the plot, as the cast is put through paces that seem prompted by dramaturgical rather than spiritual need.
In Dickey's new play, a group of women go on a retreat to live like nuns in the Middle Ages and are baptized with 80s pop, female mysticism, hallucinogens and sex. The Convent is a toothy dark comedy about desire, devotion, and the mystery of intrinsic divinity. Steven Chaikelson. Note there is no late seating for this event. Tickets are available online and by phone. Tickets can be purchased at the theatre 1 hour prior to performance times. Tickets also available by phone at Her one-woman show, The Amish Project , went from the New York International Fringe Festival to a critically heralded production at Rattlestick in , and has since been produced all across the US and all over the world. Amy Berryman Bertie is an actor and writer originally from Seattle. The short film she wrote, co-produced, and starred in, You Are Everywhere, won Best Drama in the LA Short Film Festival and she can be seen in the award-winning web series nofilter.
Whether it's Claire of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, or Madonna of pop stardom, the women of Jessica Dickey's The Convent aren't praying to idols; rather they're inhabiting them in all their fierce, feminine glory. Every woman who checks into the convent is on a quest for inner peace, and the sage Mother Abbess Wendy vanden Heuvel convinces them that medieval robes, mild hallucinogens, and communion with specially assigned ancient mystics called Nomens could be the key to unlocking it. In many ways, the residents of the convent are the same women who uncomfortably douse themselves in cultural appropriation at places like Kripalu and Buddhist meditation retreats — and Dickey certainly allows a fair amount of ridicule to shine through such earnest 21st-century faux mysticism. Even so, neither Dickey nor her equally sardonic director Daniel Talbott ever mocks the quest for enlightenment itself. Dickey's characters are lost, flawed, and habitually absurd, but you hope they find whatever it is they're searching for in coming to this strange place.