With Max McLean as Mark
Directed by Jeffrey Fiske
At the Mercury Theatre
More of a two hour sermon than a play—Mark’s Gospel wears thin
Max McLean, fresh off his fine performance in The Screwtape Latters, returns to the Mercury Theatre to play Mark in Mark’s Gospel. McLean is a true force and has the one-man show genre down as he effortlessly moves from one character to another as he tells Mark’s Gospel version of the story of Jesus. McLean possesses a booming voice and a strong sense of story that almost—almost elevates Mark’s Gospel to theatre instead of a sermon.
I must admit that I’m a recovering Catholic and I attended a Catholic grade school, high school and university—so I’ve had the New Testament shoved down my throat by aggressive nuns, brothers and priests. It was in high school that I first questioned my faith and now I am a detached non-believer. It is from that perspective that I approached Mark’s Gospel. I have admiration for Max McLean’s talents but I question the stage worthiness of Mark’s Gospel? The line between a sermon, a polemic and a one-person show has become muddled. McLean does put a human face on the New Testament but it isn’t enough to render the work more than a well performed sermon or recital.
I watched and listened with a fresh, non-believer’s point of view and my guest was a non-religious Jewish woman. What struck us about Mark’s Gospel (which was quite accurate in content) was how much that Gospel is ant-Semitic and anti-wealth besides being filled with mythological stories of miracles and evil spirit possession being cast out by Jesus and his Disciples. It takes until act two for Jesus to offer the rewards of eternal life to justify the sacrifice and suffering of his followers in their present life. If one takes faith and personal beliefs out of Mark’s Gospel, the stories of endless miracles becomes redundant and stretches credulity.
I’m not sure that non-Christians or atheists will find Mark’s Gospel more than a long sermon no matter how well performed it may be by Max McLean. I felt like I was in church or a long lecture in theology class in college. I suppose Christians will enjoy this show. It is a believer’s vehicle that is respectful to Mark’s Gospel and therein lies my problem with the show. My Jewish friend believes that Jews would be offended by this show. The line between sermon and theatre is obscured here.
At the Mercury Theatre, 3745 N. Southport, Chicago, IL, Call 773-325-1700, Tickets $29 – $48.50, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, matinees on Saturdays at 4 pm & Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission.