BWW Review: Theatre9/12 Tackles Lesser Known Miller with THE CREATION OF THE WORLD AND OTHER BUSINESS
Most people are familiar with at least some works of the renowned playwright Arthur Miller. "The Crucible", "All My Sons", "The Price", and of course "Death of a Salesman" to name a few. But one of my favorites, and a somewhat lesser known Miller, is his "The Creation of the World and Other Business". Not a household theatrical name, but it tends to get dusted off every now and again for actors who want to sink their teeth into something juicy and stretch themselves. Enter Theatre9/12, whose mission statement is all about letting actors stretch and sink their teeth into the goods, so it's no surprise that their current offering is "The Creation of the World ..." but with some slight twists. Some worked, some didn't, but in true Theatre9/12 style, the end result is a powerhouse evening.
If the title didn't give it away for you, this is Miller's, somewhat comedic, take on the Genesis story. It takes us from the Garden with God (Robert A. Barnett) and Adam (Michael C. Robinson), to the creation of Eve (Laura Bannister) and the interference of Lucifer (Mary Murfin Bayley), to the expulsion from the garden and the birth of Cain and Abel (Rowan Gallagher and Mohana Rajagopal) and (spoiler alert) the death of Abel. Through Miller's divine dialog, he explores the nature of good and evil and where evil comes from, taking into account the egos of all involved, including God.
Director Charles Waxberg has attempted to shake this one up a bit. First, he's set the show, not in the traditional Garden of Eden and Heaven, but in a 1960's hippie commune with God as their groovy leader. This alteration from the typical, while interesting to look at in regard to the costumes, didn't really work. Barnett never really adopted a "hippie" persona and the text is explicitly telling us where we are, so the location shift disappeared within the first few minutes. Next, he mixed up the casting a bit. Who says Lucifer must be a man? Or Abel for that matter? And here's where Waxberg's shifts took off as the ladies, especially Bayley, could explore a very different take on these icons. Although I'm not sure how Lucifer's slinky red dress fit into the commune setting, but I'll just let that one go.
Beyond the logistics of the story and setting, Waxberg manages to bring out some delicious moments as the actors dig into the very core of these characters. Some of the dialog could have felt a little more conversational and dynamic but overall, the meaning and power of the text is quite well honored. Barnett manages the commanding presence of the Lord beautifully and let the chinks in his armor shine through as his plans fall apart. Bayley took on the Prince (or rather Princess) of darkness, lending her an air of being misunderstood and, really, just trying to help to be in God's favor. Not so evil but in a no-win game, which worked perfectly. Then there were the kids and grandkids of God who couldn't have been more fabulous and engaging. Robinson and Bannister retained that wonderful childlike tone throughout, even when expelled from the Garden, but still managed to show growth in the journey. And then Gallagher and Rajagopal took that tone of their parents and ran with it, giving them a bit more of a jaded air than their parents, as they should be, while still staying in the moment. And their final scenes, especially Gallagher's, were riveting. I think we want to keep an eye on Gallagher. He's got tons of potential and promise.
With a slight false start and some missed opportunities, the show is a winner and definitely shows how good and mesmerizing this piece can be, especially when tackled by such professionals. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give "The Creation of the World and Other Business" a "little bit of good and little bit of evil" YAY-. I've said it before and I'll say it again, these no-frills productions from Theatre9/12 are definitely worth checking out if you like in-depth performances. And who doesn't?
"The Creation of the World and Other Business" from Theatre9/12 performs at Trinity Parish Hall through March 1st. Tickets, as always, are "pay what you will". For tickets or information, visit them online at www.theatre912.com.