Monday, January 09, 2012



Women's Project Presents
The New York Premiere 

Catherine Trieschmann's 


Directed by Daniella Topol 

With Heidi Schreck,
Adam LeFevre and Justin Kruger

Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 7:30pm 
with matinees Sundays at 3:00pm through January 29.
The Peter Jay Sharp Theater,
416 West 42nd Street

Justin Kruger, Heidi Schreck, and Adam LeFevre
Photo by Carol Rosegg

HOW THE WORLD BEGAN is a simple play about moderately simple people and fairly complex issues. Specifically, it is about small-town (Kansas) attitudes toward religion and big-city attitudes about science.

That's attitudes, because the play is about attitudes not substance.

A teacher, not that well prepared for the job, several months pregnant and sans guy, comes -- from the big-city to a Kansas town devastated by a tornado  -- to teach biology.

The play begins when a student confronts the teacher over her use (before the play begins) of the term BOBBLEDYGOOK, apparently to describe Biblical views of (spontaneous -- God-given) creation.

The play is worth seeing for its attempt at portraying ordinary people in a situation that is getting out of hand, and for the performance of Justin Kruger.  Although he is too big, too hunky, and many years too old to play a high school biology student; he is a big, hunky, strong actor in his New York debut, who captures convincingly the manifold aspects of his character's character, and he could have a nice career ahead of him.

Heidi Schreck and Justin Kruger
Photo by Carol Rosegg

The set design is interesting.  Suggesting a schoolroom reconstructed after the old school was destroyed, a complete biology classroom is constructed on top of a set of cinder blocks.  The light for the room comes from what appear to be skylight windows on the top of the schoolroom (with the theatrical lights out of sight).

Heidi Schreck, Adam LeFevre and Justin Kruger in the schoolroom set
Photo by Carol Rosegg


Here are some notes/observations about the play:

The play gets off to a somewhat rocky start, because the first scene seems stagey and unnatural.  Aside from the fact that the boy seems too old to be in the class, the whole scene does not feel like any encounter that could happen in the real world of a high school.

There is something unreal and vague about the whole situation of the play -- it doesn't seem grounded: Does the teacher teach anything else? Why would she be hired to teach only biology? What part of the school year is this? The first class? What level is the class? A first class in science for seniors? How much preparation did the teacher have before she came to teach?  Where are all the other teachers? the other classrooms?

The teacher (Heidi Schreck) is presented -- most likely with a deliberate intention -- as confused, unprepared, with personal baggage, and without "poetry" in her language.  Adam LeFevre, as the boy's guardian, plays the role of "mediator" with straightforward reasonableness.

There is something admirable and important about trying to create "minimal" "normal" characters. I did not find, however, very much in the character of the teacher -- as it evolved over the course of the play -- that was very different, or more interesting, than the single sentence description above.

This play, of course, evokes memories of Oleanna -- student vs teacher  -- and Inherit The Wind -- evolution vs. religion.  This is a much more casual play than either of those.

I was most concerned, however, by the fact that the only objective of the teacher seems to be to keep her job.  She does not ever confront (though they are briefly mentioned) the deeper issues of  science and religion.  Also, it is disappointing that any serious dealing with the religious views of the boy are undercut by revealing that he is very, very disturbed. His religious "convictions" are trumped by his profoundly troubled soul.

The final scene is most interesting.  When the student reveals both tender feelings for the teacher, and how profoundly mentally shaken he is, suffering something like a seizure -- recalling the first scene -- the teacher comes to comfort him in a way that is almost inappropriate. But when he politely reacts to her joy that her baby is moving, she shuts him down immediately. Were this the beginning of the play, it would suggest a very promising dynamic, but at the very end, it just seems like an arbitrary piece of scripting to put a finish on the play.

Perhaps -- I mean this seriously -- the play is most interesting for how it dodges the serious issues and real questions that are raised in the first scene: teacher/student science/religion.  For in the real world, most of the time, the truth is, these issues are dodged, not confronted, and never solved.

Here is a prizewinning film made by Justin at Rutgers:

Labels: , , , , , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


    follow me on Twitter

    QPORIT --
    Quick PREVIEWS Of Random Interesting Things

    (c) Copyright 2005-2009 Eric H. Roffman
    All rights reserved