Feb 03

Faith and Science collide in Fire Exit Theatre’s ‘How The World Began’

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

In the end, Fire Exit Theatre’s production of Catherine Trieschmann’s How The World Began seems to focus on the argument about how this world came to be. But really, How The World Began could be about any disagreement. The subject at which the parties involved are at odds about could be anything. This is what is at the heart of the play, and it’s fascinating to watch the characters circle this conflict and each other over and over again.

The play tells of Susan (Krista Marushy), a pregnant science teacher from New York, who has moved to a small town in Kansas. The town is mostly of Christian faith and Susan doesn’t share that similarity but is determined to start a new life. She was placed in Plainview, but the town was also recently flattened by a tornado and 17 people died. In the first scene, we meet Micah (Georgie Cowan) who has a question about Susan most recent class. Susan was discussing the origins of life on earth and was outlining the scientific theories of life spontaneously being created from inanimate matter. She uses a line in her lecture: “of course if you believe all that other gobbly gook” referring to faith as a theory of explaining how life came to be. Micah has taken offence to this particular phrase and he and Susan discuss it at length. He wants an apology and winds up not backing down from that stance. In comes Gene (John Moerschbacher) for an off the cuff meeting with Susan to try and clear the air. Gene is taking care of Micah, but isn’t related to the young man or his legal guardian. He comes to Susan’s class offering pie and what he thinks is an olive branch. Instead, he accuses her of creating stress and questions her credentials as a teacher but is present because Micah is troubled and wants an apology from Susan.

As the play progresses, the characters get closer and closer to a resolution, but never quite get there. Director Mark Lewandowski has all the actors in close quarters of the set designed by Julie Serger that is free standing on the stage of the Engineered Aired Theatre. It is like you are looking at a classroom, with one wall cut out and no ceiling. There are a couple student desks and filing cabinets and Susan’s desk, in the back. There is one entry door into the trailer-like classroom. Colin Lowe’s sound design has construction noises interrupt the dialogue multiple times and there is always the sound of a ticking clock in the background. Juan Hurtado’s lighting design guide the audience through the scene changes, lighting the backdrop in hues of pink and blue.

Marushy is strong as Susan, her delivery even. Cowan is impressive as Micah, but could amp up his emotionality when he is at the height of the conflict. Moerschbacher is a bit wooden in his role as Gene and could just take a little more time to deepen his reactions to other characters.

Susan, Gene and Micah stand on three sides of an issue and this is examined beautifully in the play. How The World Began deftly illustrates how assumptions and bias and communication all create interactions between us. Our motivation is nuanced and complicated and nothing is every black and white.

Sometimes what we need to do is take a breath and listen.

Fire Exit Theatre’s How The World Began  runs February 5th. More information is available online.

Photo Credit: Tara Whittaker


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