Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
This medieval work, previously produced at the Folger in 2007, tells the story of the nativity from the viewpoint of three rough English shepherds: Coll (Louis E. Davis), who gripes about the cold and the fact that he is poor while the nobles live well; Gib (Matthew R. Wilson), hiding from his contentious wife; and the boy Daw (Megan Graves), who describes the severe weather he has encountered.
Before the story turns to mysteries and miraculous births, the shepherds must deal with sly sheep-stealer Mak (Ryan Sellers), his clever wife Gill (Tonya Beckman), and a recalcitrant sheep (a puppet controlled by Malinda Kathleen Reese) hidden in a cradle. The unknown author presents all times and places as one, so the medieval shepherds can travel easily from their home in wintry northern England to ancient Bethlehem, guided by an angel (Emily Noël) and a star, to greet Mary (gracious Lilian Oben) and the baby Jesus.
Musicians Robert Eisenstein, Brian Kay, and Daniel Meyers, performing with period instruments, add to the enchantment with melodies from the 14th through 16th centuries, mostly instrumental works but also carols and wassailing songs performed by the actors.
Surface and her cast engage the audience as a troupe of traveling players, dressed in simple costumes designed by Adalia Tonneyck (except for one, a glittering surprise) and performing on Tony Cisek's unadorned platform set with a few necessary furnishings. Cleverly and amusingly, puppets designed by Aaron Cromie represent the actors as they climb up and down hills between the shepherds' field and the home of Mak and Gill.