OpeningNight.Online Theater Logo

Oratorio for Living Things

Search by review category
The Oratorio for Living Things is a miraculous, thought-provoking celebration of hope, life, and the human spirit, ravishingly expressed through a brilliant fusion of music and theater. Created by Heather Christian, it is directed by Lee Sunday Evans. Each generation of American youth has something critical to say about their predecessors. They examine their parents’ mores and society and are dissatisfied. They inevitably revive the iconoclast struggles between generations that include perennial efforts to reconcile science and religion. It’s perhaps natural to occur now as we reenter the world from the lament of the pandemic. I sensed this reemergence while recently attending Science at the Theater of the New City. In theater, beginning in the late 60s, the Age of Aquarius brought to the stage rebellious youth excoriating the military draft and the tragedy of the Vietnam war while questioning their parents’ versions of Christianity and patriotism. It was an exultation of counterculture, the sexual revolution, and hippie-dressed youthful, rebellious emergence that continued into the next decade. Musicals like Hair, Godspell, and Jesus Christ Superstar fit the bill for brash, youthful artistic expression. Luminaries like John Lennon and George Harrison ventured into Swami Prabhupada’s tenets of Hare Krishna and begat songs like My Sweet Lord, All Things Must Pass, and Living in the Material World. Today, the young can craft an argument and find a voice through Heather Christian’s Oratorio for Living Things, an intense, transcendental experience that exudes reverence, spirituality, and reflection. It examines the most profound of universal forces, time, and explores it, as Christian explains, “on three scales: the quantum, the human, the cosmic.” The Oratorio begins with an incipient, gentle admixture of plainsong and theater surrounding the sun, gradually taking participants from their sub specie aeternitatis into a joyous musical enterprise of operatic, dynamic, and impassioned theatrical afflatus. This progression is accomplished through marvelous ensemble, solo, accompanied, and a capella choric rapture. Text is sung in Latin and English for both placid and turbulent evocation. The music is fresh, passionate, celestial, and cleverly spans jazz, blues, gospel, classical, contemporary, and ultramontane polyphony. Akin to Wilfred Owens passing bells, church bells transpire at critical moments, providing ominous reminders of time and its portentous inevitability. The theater is an intimate space. The seating is steeply vertical and surrounds a central performance area. World-class musicians performing on percussion, keyboards, reeds, violin, cello, and double bass/electric bass are perched in the wings around the top. Sound and lighting are miraculous, surrounding and cradling the audience and cast alike. The troupe performs in the aisles, on lofty parapets, and in the center stage area below, scattering and regrouping like pinpoints of flame. They are sparkling, coruscating, and evolve their contrapuntal mélange into an ineffable unfolding of meaning beyond sheer solipsism. The packed house stood and extended well-earned ovations for the company. This musical may indeed move uptown, as did Hair and Godspell of another generation. I look forward to seeing how the profoundly intimate character of the work materializes on a grand scale. For other off-Broadway reviews, click here. Runtime: 90 minutes, no intermission. Ars Nova presents Heather Christian’s Oratorio for Living Things Directed by Lee Sunday Evans Through May 15, 2022 Tickets are here or type Ars Nova @ Greenwich House 27 Barrow Street, New York, NY, 10014 Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Birthday CandlesAll My GirlsEast Side Stories, and Faith by Mastervoices.

More to explore...

Andre Royo in Audible Theater's production of "Drinking in America," written by Eric Bogosian and directed by Mark Armstrong. Off-Broadway / Minetta Lane Theatre (18 Minetta Lane, NYC). Photo (c) Jeremy Daniel

Drinking in America at the Minetta Lane Theater

Royo delivered a resounding performance, transforming into over 12 characters experiencing the stages of alcoholism and its effects on each character’s interaction with himself and others. At times, it’s hard to tell who Man is, as his toxic masculinity dominates and elevates with the abuse of alcohol.

MasterVoices presents O HOW GOOD at the Central Synagogue. Ted Sperling, conductor. Credit Photo: Joe Carrotta

MasterVoices Presents a Concert of Jewish Sacred Music at Central Synagogue

Tonight’s O How Good was a celebration of the life of MasterVoices board member Lois Conway and the years of philanthropy and insightful leadership characterizing her service. The venue chosen for this event was inspiring and magnificent and set in New York City’s Central Synagogue, a stunning example of Moorish Revival architecture and a testament to the beauty and richness of Jewish tradition and culture.


Oratorio for Living Things

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x