- When people get entrenched in their beliefs, whether they be
religious or political, it is hard to open their minds to
it is doubt we fear most of all. There is security in
believing we’re on the right side, that we’ve discovered
the World Began,” the present showing at the Milwaukee
Rep’s Steimke Studio, echoes the issue argued in the famous
Scopes trial in Tennessee in 1925. Is evolution a valid
explanation for the world’s beginning? Are religion and
science compatible subjects? One would think we’d have these
problems resolved by now, but the argument still rages in some
school systems almost a century later.
play begins as a student is questioning his biology teacher
about a statement she made in class, apparently using the word
“gobbledegook” to refer to theories that rely solely on
religion for an explanation of how the world began.
Susan, a displaced, pregnant teacher from New York, is about
to suffer severe culture shock as she arrives in Plainfield,
Kan., to teach in a makeshift school after a tornado. Her
student, Micah, a troubled teenager and his guardian, Gene
Dinkel, who is temporarily raising him after Micah’s loss of
his family, are the only other characters in the play, but in
a sense, the whole town becomes another character as they
protest again Susan and her supposed heretical teachings.
Catherine Trieschmann has created three complex, thoroughly
human characters. Even though they have very strong, distinct
points of view and won’t budge in their stances, they all
engage our sympathies. Each
character conflicts with the other two, but they also have
some respect and caring for each other, as well, which leaves
us feeling in the end that perhaps with a little more personal
humility and attentiveness to others’ points of view, we may
learn to live together in peace or, at the very least, in
three actors in the cast are all well-suited for their roles.
Ben Charles and Marty Lodge are both making their debut at The
as the young, anxiety-ridden Micah, conveys his anguish very
convincingly. He is angry, frightened and feels isolated. He
needs someone to help him work through this mishmash of
emotions but can find no one. Both his guardian and his
teacher care about him, but he is too blind to see it.
Instead, he lashes out in the ignorance of self-righteousness
and the loneliness of despair. Even the God he believes in is
a vengeful one. Charles conveys Micah’s turmoil
his temporary father, tries to support him according to his
own lights, but fails. Lodge creates a very believable Dinkel.
We’ve all met men like Dinkel - good men, hardworking, but
rigid and simplistic in their thinking.
He and Susan could probably get along if they kept
their conversations superficial.
Staples, with her usual inimitable skills, gives us an edgy,
dedicated teacher who is dealing with her own issues, when she
is suddenly thrown into a totally foreign environment, one
which soon proves hostile and unforgiving. We agonize with the
challenges she faces both professionally and personally.
one wins here. Escape is the only route when every other
passage is blocked. But there is that glimmer of hope as the
play ends. Each character has been affected by the other two,
and perhaps, in time, will move a tad toward accepting the
other’s stance. Change comes slowly, but it does sometimes
come. And another new life will soon join the mix, and how
that person will view the world is another unknown.