In Lifeline Theatre’s “Mariette in Ecstasy, ” postulant Mariette Baptiste (Brenda Barrie) joins the Sisters of the Crucifixion as a minor celebrity; her initiation is greeted with pageantry by townspeople. When she experiences what may be a divine encounter, she shatters the group’s fragile order. Is she God’s chosen or an attention-seeking poseur?
Christina Calvit’s adaptation of Ron Hansen’s best-selling novel initially fails to dramatize the cost of an ecstatic experience. The first act is cluttered by exposition; conflicts are alluded to and never resolved. But the ensemble captures the struggle of the faithful as they seek God, and the doubt and pain created by an “answer.” Barrie quietly depicts Mariette’s fiery religious passion; Sarah Goeden’s unrequited devotion to Mariette is heart-wrenching. Elise Kauzlaric’s direction effectively establishes the order’s punishing routine and pushes the performers to delve deeply into the characters on Alan Donahue’s spare yet vivid set. (Lisa Buscani)
At The Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood, (773)761-4477, through April 5.