Regional Reviews: Boston
The Creation of the World and Other Business
The Theatre Cooperative's latest offering, Arthur Miller's The Creation of the World and Other Business, returns for two more weeks after a hiatus Thanksgiving weekend. Directed by Fred Robbins, this is a thoughtful and evocative production that suffers a bit from the "channel surfing" of Miller's writing. We get hooked by a lighthearted retelling of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden only to be sideswiped by interludes of didactic commentary on good and evil alternating with the rest of the first family's unsavory adventures in the "real world."
The 1972 Broadway premiere was also fraught in its genesis, replacing the director and two major actors in midstream. And the playwright's feelings about the text were as mixed as God's feelings about his new creation. A note in Best Plays (which selected it as one of the season's ten best despite the 20 performance run) indicates the synopsis was prepared, at Miller's request, from the "official" published acting edition rather than the stage manager's prompt script from the original production.
Although presented here in two acts (making for a very long first half) the play is written in three, each one posing a question about the human dilemma. The first asks, "Since God made everything good and God is good - why did he make Lucifer?" Secondly, "Is there something in the way we are born which makes us want to be good?" And finally, "When every man wants justice, why does he go on creating injustice?" Any one of these alone would have sufficed for a thought-provoking play.
One of the delights of the Theatre Coop's production is the multi-cultural, gender-blind casting. The 2002 Eliot Award winning actress Naeemah A. White-Peppers (Amelia in The Credeaux Canvas) gives us a Lucifer who's a stunning and powerful match for Forrest Walter's omnipresent God who sometimes can't bear to watch the events he has set in motion.
Marc Harpin, delightfully childlike as Adam, also has his hands full with the ever questioning, ever practical Eve of Chinasa Ogbuagu. [When the run resumes, Stacy Fischer (Ruth in Book of Days) takes over for Ms. Ogbuagu who is leaving Boston to accept a Broadway understudy job.]
Thomas M.J. Callahan (scenic designer) makes good use of the space, including uncovering a stained glass window in one corner for God's province and using the spiral stair in the opposite one as the "stairway to hell." Sarah Wisch (costume designer) provides some witty touches in her terrific costumes, and Izhar Schejter (original music) contributes mightily to the spirit of the piece. Matt Soule (lighting designer) also provides some nice elements - like the starry firmament above - but a paucity of equipment for the size of the playing space makes it impossible to always light the actors' faces properly.
There is enough charm to this production - when not done in by the overabundance of ideas - to make this more than an idle curiosity. Miller, himself, was enamored enough with the material to have another go at it a few years later. He and composer Stanley Silverman adapted it into a musical called Up From Paradise that was developed at the first incarnation of Stuart Ostrow's Musical Theatre Lab and premiered in 1974 at the University of Michigan, Miller's alma mater.
Creation of the World and Other Business now through December 13th at The Theatre Cooperative, 277 Broadway in Somerville, MA (directions on the website.) Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sunday, Dec 7th at 2pm. Seating is general admission and tickets are $20 with a $5 discount for students/seniors and $10 for military personnel. Tickets can be purchased online at www.theatrecoop.org or reserved by calling the theatre at 617 625-1300.
- Suzanne Bixby