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Credit: NAC
Credit: NAC

Theatre Review: "Creation" in the Studio at the National Arts Centre

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Creation is running in the Studio at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa through February 20. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has our review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

CREATION, written by Peter Anderson with songs by Allen Cole and Mr. Anderson, is in the style of a medieval “Mystery” play. Although inspired by the Old Testament, the playwright has re-examined the stories from a contemporary point of view.  He brings them to life in a way that points up their relevance to today’s world, both in terms of the individual and the environment.

Staged in the round, Karyn McCallum’s set consists largely of a raised circular platform with a large hole in the center and a tall and remarkably versatile stepladder. The surface of the platform allows designer Daniel McIlmoil to create some interesting lighting effects. The appearance of the stars after the flood is especially effective.

The cast is excellent. Mary-Colin Chisholm makes a strong, maternal and omni-present God, and all the other actors shine in multiple roles. Tamara Podemski is especially good as Naomi, an invented character who warns of the coming flood and Beverly Wolfe is very affecting as Sarah in the penultimate scene.

Jamie Mac and Rachelle Casseus do a nice job as Adam and Eve and their “Naming Animals Song” is great fun. Mr. Mac also plays a mean guitar and Randi Helmers, a sturdy and funny Mrs. Noah in gumboots, an equally mean ukulele.

Christian Murray is especially good as Abel and his scene with Cain, in a powerful performance by Kris Joseph, is one of the strongest of the evening. Mr. Joseph also does an exceptional job with “Cain’s Song.”

Greg Kramer is fine as Lucifer and even better as the Serpent, in a slithery red costume using wonderfully flexible snaky movement. The comic hit of the play is Joey Tremblay as the Ass. His costume is terrific and the braying quotation from KING LEAR hilarious.

Mr. Cole’s songs are sung primarily a cappella and the singers and harmonies sound great. “Beget, Begat, Begot” is especially entertaining, partly due to Dana Tekatch’s lively choreography. Director Peter Hinton has done an inventive job of staging, particularly in the building of the Ark and its subsequent voyage.

Mr. Anderson has written the play in rhyming couplets of iambic tetrameter, which leads us to expect a certain amount of pageantry and stylization. Instead we get realism that, no matter how good the acting, (and most of it’s very good), clashes with the language. The same dichotomy is apparent in Miss McCallum’s costumes. With the exception of the Serpent, the Ass and the clever angel wings, visually we’re in the world of non-descript contemporary realism. Although there’s a lot of creativity and excellent performances up on the stage, for me, as one of my companions remarked, the whole isn’t equal to the sum of its parts.

On a scale of one to five the NAC English Theatre production of CREATION gets four Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  

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