Eden, Heaven and Hell on Earth collided in the Don Evans Black Box Theater for All College Theatre’s (ACT’s) production of Arthur Miller’s “The Creation of the World and other Business.”
The unconventional rendition of “Genesis” and John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” presents a controversial picture of the dynamic between God and his creations. Lucifer incites sympathy, and God is a bit of a hothead. Comical at times, ultimately haunting and thought provoking, Miller deconstructs biblical archetypes and leaves the audience questioning … everything.
The play opened on Oct. 13 to a small audience. Though sparse, the crowd animatedly received director and 2004 alumnus Jonathan Elliot’s version of Arthur Miller’s 1972 production. According to Elliot, the original cast only calls for one woman — the role of Eve. Elliot’s decision to make the angels, and specifically Lucifer, female roles, surprisingly highlighted the women of the story as free thinkers contrary to biblical stereotypes. This alteration developed a fascinating new dimension to Miller’s work, something that the performers masterfully captured throughout the production.
Senior English major Heather Duncan was brilliant as Lucifer. Through her fluid movement and wide-eyed expressions, Duncan conveyed the cunning, yet genuine intentions of Lucifer to achieve peace. Duncan’s unwavering eye contact with Eve, played by junior biology major Rose Filoramo, established the sense that she was Eve’s “only connection to femininity,” as Elliot said — one of the intentions of having Lucifer played by a female.
Though freshman biology major Dan Loverro mastered his role as a tempered father figure, many instances of his rage as God seemed forced. When expressing satisfaction with Adam and Eve, his gentle adoration was achieved organically, while moments of defeat came across as more recitation than reaction. While Loverro succeeded in humanizing God, his internal conflict could’ve been more strongly established.
The play begins as slow-paced comedy set in the Garden of Eden, but quickly transforms into tragedy as each individual character struggles to identify his or her purpose. Adam clings to his blind obedience of God, while Eve falls in and out of doubt with the help of Lucifer. Though there was some line stumbling, no instance interrupted the flow of the performance.
Junior communications major Mark Smith as Adam clearly captured the different manifestations of his eagerness to please God, differentiating ignorant devotion shown in the garden, from the nostalgic, automatic obedience beyond Eden. Through consistently clear facial expressions and believable portrayal of anguish, especially while giving birth, Filoramo flawlessly showed Eve’s vulnerability to doubt.
Sophomore cognitive science major John Cherney was frightening as Cain, unstable with explosive jealousy and hatred. With the addition of a teddy bear, sophomore history major Casey Perno posed the perfect contrast as Abel, innocent from his introduction.
The utilization of space and the set in this play was impeccable. The murder of Abel, coupled with music and perfectly coordinated movement, was terrifying. The subtle presence of Chemuel played by freshman vocal music education major Alli Gibbons, junior communications major Julianna White as Raphael, and junior interactive multimedia major Shelley Snyder as Azrael, behind the action added an even greater haunting element to the scene.
The day prior to opening night, dramaturge and assistant production manager Noah Franc, sophomore history major, hosted a discussion about the religious context of the play following a dress rehearsal that was opened to the campus. Among topics discussed were the play’s alteration of the Bible, Lucifer as a possible protagonist, and God’s relationship with his creations. Elliot and assistant director Jillian Hernandez, junior philosophy major, also discussed the intent of the play.
“The concept we came up with is hate comes up in places where love used to be … We don’t hate anyone until we’ve loved them,” Elliot said. “Lucifer and God, it’s the biggest breakup in the world.”