A Gripping Production Of Catherine Trieschmann’s “How The World Began”
Custom Made Theatre is always looking for new ways to program that is risky in the marketplace and they have found Catherine Trieschmann “How the World Began”. She is what they call in New York City a “downtown” playwright. Their plays aren’t easy to describe, have a poetic nature, and take complex looks at everyday life. “How the World Began” is an insightful and compassionate drama about a teacher who has made a mistake in how the world began.
Pregnant Susan is an unmarried trainee who accepts a teacher placement in Plainville, Kansas to escape a difficult New York personal life and qualify for the healthcare she needs. The small town is just recovering from its own loss, the deaths of 17 people and the destruction of much of the town in a tornado.
The first scene she receives an after hour visit from a student. He reproaches her when she made an ill-considered remark about the origins of life on earth. She describes some of the theories as “gobblegook” and so now she finds herself on a public collision course with the student who believes that every word of the Bible is true.
The student believes the phrase is inflammatory to a room full of young Christians. He seeks an explanation and an apology. Even the young student unofficial guardian gets into the discussion. He even brings in a lemon meringue pie to cajole the reluctant teacher into making a proper apology that she has refused to give to the students.
“How The World Began” is a spellbinding 80 minute drama more in the tradition of David Mamet’s “Oleanna” or Rebecca Gilman’s “Spinning into Butter”. I even saw moments from “Inherit the Wind” in this fascinating drama. Director Leah S. Abrams has fine actors who instill the characters with sparks of real passionate life. The people of faith are not treated as buffoons but persons who really believe in the bible.
Tim Garcia is a revelation as the young student Micah. He gives a superb performance as the moody 16 year old student who has just lost his parents in the tornado. He makes the audience see how his beliefs have become a fortification against a world that keeps fluctuating under his feet. His penetrating performance allows the audience to see the damage, even despairing young man under the stoic surface.
Mary McGloin is outstanding as the well-meaning but inexperience teacher. She shows a natural empathy for the wounded Micah, as dependable as her prickliness, without turning her into a phobic exaggeration. Malcolm Rodgers gives a splendid performance as the local busybody and unofficial guardian of Micah. He even suggests to the teacher that fossils are simply God’s way of testing their faith.
Director Leah S.Abrams has an acute emphasis on the specificity of the characters. Eric LaDue has designed a simple classroom set on the small intimate stage of the theatre. “How the World Began” runs through March 8th at the Gough Street Playhouse, 1620 Gough Street, San Francisco. For tickets go to www.custommade.org
Coming up next is the world premiere of Plautus “The Braggart Soldier or Major Blowhard”. Adapted and directed by Evren Odcikin. It opens on March 27th.