May 19, 2015

The teenager crouches on the rectory’s kitchen floor, idly inking his forearm with a ballpoint pen. His face is bruised, his complexion pale green, his hair dusted with white. He’s a ghost, and a persistent one, trailing his older brother, Nathan, through life. That’s hardly the only haunting going on in Sara Fellini’s unwieldy new play, “In Vestments,” in which Isaac Byrne’s high-energy production is by turns earnest and campy, wrenching and visually eloquent. Set in a Roman Catholic parish called Our Lady of Perpetual Sighs, it’s performed in the intimate chapel of West Park Presbyterian Church on the Upper West Side, where the audience sits in pews lining the walls. As the play begins, the priests face a quandary: What to do with sacramental wine that was tainted by plaster falling from the ceiling at the moment of transubstantiation, just as the wine became the blood of Christ? The metaphor — poison in the very structure of the church — is worryingly on the nose, and the money-grubbing ways of Father Falke (Ted Wold), the ranking priest, similarly lack subtlety. But the play mostly gets better from there, even if it refuses to settle into a tone.