The Creation of the World and Other Business is a deep cut of Arthur Miller’s work. The self-serious American playwright tried his hand at comedy, and what followed was nothing if not memorable and confusing. In fact, director Kirsten Kephalas admits that the play is “one of the worst comedies [she had] ever read.” Despite the ineptitude of the source material, this Players’ Theatre production still results in a brave, and at times, compelling staging of Arthur Miller’s idiosyncratic rendition of the world’s creation in Judeo-Christian mythology and mankind’s fall from innocence.
The play begins in the mystical Garden of Eden, with God (Frederic Rosenthal) and Adam (Alec MacMillan) struggling to name fruits and animals. Early on, Miller’s humour would be comfortable in a Sunday school; however, with the entrance of Lucifer (Lucas Amato), the play shifts gears, becoming more adult in its humour and weighty in its concerns.
Amato’s Lucifer is a highlight of the production. Miller writes him as the most human character, and Amato embodies Lucifer’s pettiness and idealism incredibly well. He knows how to commit and deliver a joke no matter how clumsily written—or obscene, in the case of one joke about ‘holes.’
Throughout the play, Miller’s heavy-handed treatment of ‘important questions’ is often antithetical to comedy. Conversations between God and Lucifer alternate between discussing the relationship of innocence and knowledge to corny jokes—“If it weren’t for the law of Conservation of Energy, I’d destroy you!” bellows a megalomaniac God to Lucifer more than once. In these exchanges with Lucifer, Rosenthal’s bearded, white-robed God is played a little more disinterestedly and aloofly than needed in the pursuit of gravitas. The dialogue can be clunky—Miller alternates between using a natural modern speech pattern and faux biblical language such as the repeated use of “thee.”
The play never decides to commit to being a comedy or a drama, and its uncertain genre status pulls the play in two different directions. The relationship between Adam and Eve (Anna Queen) is distant and forced. During Eve’s late pregnancy there are several pregnancy, jokes which come off—through no fault of the director or cast—as misogynistic and cruel. The character of Eve is dealt a poor hand and Queen makes the most of her role dealing with the misfortunes caused by a vengeful God and clumsy playwright with a grace that is befitting of her character.
In the last act, the plot grows convoluted as God wants to kill Eve’s youngest son so that humanity becomes dependent on God. Lucifer wants to stop God’s plan to prove that there does not need to be any duality between good and evil. This reversal of roles is fascinating and intriguing for those versed in Judeo-Christian mythology, and fits comfortably in a long tradition of painting Lucifer as an anti-hero.
Due to God’s influence, Eve’s sons tie her up and are about to assault her when God comes down and causes a chain of events which result in the death of Eve’s youngest son, Abel (Adam Almeida). The ending has the emotional intensity and high volume of Miller’s dramas and is reminiscent the climax of The Crucible. However, the staging of the last act is cluttered, with God, Lucifer, Adam, Eve, and their children vying for stage space. The death of Abel at the hand of his brother Cain (Clay Walsh) is not an emotional moment with Abel entering and exiting the play briefly, and the writing does not establish his relationships with other characters before his murder. However Walsh gives Cain depth during his brief stage time and showcases murderous rage and immense regret in one of the play’s strongest dramatic moments.
Despite inconsistencies in the scripts, The Creation of the World and Other Business is still fascinating and unique because of its flaws. Fans of Arthur Miller or for those who want to have a distinct semi-comedic experience should watch it for themselves.
The Creation of the World and Other Business runs from Wednesday, Jan. 28 to Saturday, Jan. 31 at 8 p.m. at Players’ Theatre. Student tickets are $6. Trigger warning for subject matter pertaining to sexual and emotional abuse.