Arthur Miller’s The Creation of the World and Other Business tanked when it first opened on Broadway in 1972. Its attempts at comedy, as well as an intelligent, complex treatment of the subject matter are all disparaged to this day. The text does seem confused about its identity – does it want to be a comedy or a drama? By attempting to be both, it misses the mark and comes off flat. Luckily, 9th Hour Theatre’s rich, imaginative production presents the best of what the play has to offer. There are a few elements that can be ironed out, but, overall, cast and crew come together and present a highly enjoyable production which digs into the characters and central themes of the text.
The Creation of the World and Other Business is Miller’s take on the Biblical creation of the world. We first get to know Adam, endlessly frolicking in the Garden of Eden, blissful in his sinless ignorance. God wants Adam to procreate, so he creates Eve. Unfortunately, their innocence is such that procreation, or the act required for it, doesn’t even cross the the two humans’ minds. God, in his infinite power and somewhat lacklustre wisdom, doesn’t know how to make this happen, so in comes Lucifer, a shrewdly intelligent archangel and the only one to challenge God’s ideas. He has some ideas of his own, setting events into motion that change the path of humanity forever.
This may not be one of Miller’s best plays, but it would do the playwright a disservice to call his characters one-dimensional. In The Creation of the World and Other Business, Miller strays away from the classical notion of God as purely good or Satan as purely evil, presenting elements of both in the characters. In order to showcase this, director Jonathan Harris has actors switching roles throughout the performance, creating a fluidity in their characters and highlighting questions of motivation in each. If Eve can be the Devil and the Devil can be Cain, the audience’s willingness to explore the ideas central to Miller’s play grows almost unbeknownst to them.
A key element in the success of the the production is the strength of the cast. Every one more than pulls their weight. Robin Guy pulls off a truly astounding transformation form a curious but devoted Eve to a sly Satan. Although she wears a blazer several sizes too large for her, she shines, her voice oozing with confidence and a mellow attitude that hides a sharp, sometimes callous, mind. Johnny Eaton’s transformation is quite stunning as well. Both actors’ convey just as much with their facial expressions and body positions as with their bodies and what they say. David Plouffe’s God is soft spoken for the most part, though there’s a quiet fortitude that lurks beneath his words.
Although the production was overall very well done, the occasional use of a megaphone to increase God’s magnitude was distracting and functions to break the spell of the story. Likewise, a few of the choreographed scenes didn’t quite gel, and so came off as awkward.
9th Hour Theatre’s The Creation of the World and Other Business is an enjoyable production that makes its audience question traditional notions of good and evil. Don’t expect to come out of the theatre with exact answers, but the ride is more than worth it.
The Creation of the World and Other Business plays in the studio at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre July 23 to August 8.
The Creation of the World and Other Business
9th Hour Theatre
Directed by Jonathan Harris
Music direction by Robin Guy
Dramatugy by: George Dutch
Featuring: Robin Guy, Benoit Trudel, Mary Beth Pongrac, David Plouffe, Johnny Eaton, and George Dutch
Also including the talents of: Flo Alexander, Elizabeth Chant, Gabrielle Lazarovitz, Susan Marriner, Sarah Nieman, Andrew Palangio, Mishelle Stott, and Tanya Sylvester