"Three stars

Etheridge Knight Theater; directed by Kendra Mitchell; Lockerbie Central United Methodist Church; Dec. 21-30

With Christmas boxed away until next year, you’ve missed your chance to see this lightly spiritual retelling of Christ’s birth. As a handful of parishioners, including two long-estranged sisters, rehearse the annual Christmas pageant, there are many opportunities for playwright Roberta Lowen to bring home the message of reconciliation and forgiveness. And although there are a few sermon-y speeches devoted to the subject, Mary’s Journey mostly maintains the sentimental unreality of holiday movies like White Christmas. While the pageant director offers pastor-like guidance to actors playing Mary and Joseph, various shepherds and archangels practice carols, flirt and plot to bring the two sisters back together. To her credit, real-life director Kendra Mitchell (who slipped easily into the role of sister Eva due to a cast member’s illness) keeps the one-hour play as short and sweet as it should be, employing Etheridge Knight’s church/stage delightfully. Mary’s Journey is not high art, but there is a pleasant art in the way Mitchell pulls our ears and eyes in and out of the sanctuary with the clunk of falling lumber, the stringing of a canvas desert-scape and the search for a missing donkey.

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