In the Yale Dramat’s “The Creation of the Word and Other Business,” the stage is dominated by Eden’s apple tree. This most famous plant in western culture is woven from what appear to be strips of aluminum. Lit with bottle-green and bright white lights and hung with tinfoil-wrapped apples, the giant prop looks sinister and vaguely seductive. It sets the perfect mood for Arthur Miller’s comedic take on Genesis, in which morality is unreliable and God’s love sometimes seems more dangerous than the Devil.
Directed, produced and acted primarily by freshmen and sophomores, “Creation” confronts issues of sex, sin, gender and religion with a refreshing sense of humor. One of the production’s many strengths is a convincing feeling of progression from start to finish. Costumes, set and the characters themselves change before the audience’s eyes as the play moves from Paradise to the real world, from innocent ignorance to all the pain and exhilaration of awareness.
The costume choices underscore the play’s delicious sense of humor. Adam (Alex Klein ’12) and Eve (Emma Barash ’11) spend the first half of the play in their underwear. Even after they recognize their own nakedness, the pink-petaled, aluminum-stemmed flowers they stick on over their tighty-whiteys only increase the absurdity of the scene. God (Joshua Silverstein ’10) is draped in metallic fabric, toga-style, and Lucifer (Austin Trow ’12) is appropriately slick in shiny shoes and a red blazer.
The set also contributes to the play’s sense of growth. During the scenes in Eden, the space in front of the giant apple tree is decorated with a latticework twined with metallic vines. When Adam and Eve are forced into the desert, the stage becomes barren. Then, as they begin to carve out a fixed, domestic existence, it fills up with the human clutter that symbolizes a settled life.
Perhaps the most effective element of the set is a symmetrical pair of platforms near the front of the stage. These lend themselves perfectly to the face-offs between opposing characters that drive much of the action of the play. God and Lucifer yell at each other across the gap; Adam and Eve glare over it during a scene of marital discord; Cain (Hunter Wolk ’12) kills Abel (Jeremy Lloyd ’12) as they stand, one on each side, looking out at the audience.
Since nearly all the characters in “Creation” are male, Barash has the challenging task of portraying Eve, the woman who epitomizes the West’s ambivalent view of the female sex. Barash’s Eve possesses a frank curiosity about the darker elements of human nature, which is intriguing even if, or perhaps because, it introduces sin into human life.
Many of Barash’s best moments come when she is on stage with Klein, who successfully presents Adam’s development from naïve almost-child to disillusioned patriarch. Together, he and Barash portray a relationship that has matured over time, a real marriage affected by guilt and regret.
The pair of opposites who lie at the heart of the play — God and Lucifer — are also well cast. Trow’s smooth-talking Satan could not be more different from Silverstein’s God, who, at least at the beginning of the play, seems good-natured and a little bit bumbling. No progression in “Creation” is more fascinating than the complex reversal of roles that takes place between these two characters. Silverstein gives God an unparalleled temper, while Trow’s Lucifer shows flashes of an entirely human vulnerability.
Unfortunately, these strong performances are occasionally drowned out by the music coming from a small live band in the corner of the stage. The sound effects they produce are undoubtedly intended to increase the dramatic tension in important scenes, but in most cases they simply interrupt the flow of the actor’s dialogue and make it hard to hear important words.
“Creation” provides a fresh and often funny take on all-too-familiar issues, encouraging us to peel the tinfoil cover off the proverbial apple and sink our teeth once again into the old questions about man’s place between the extremes of good and bad, God and Devil.