Through February 24|
WAY BACK WHEN The New Phoenix Theatre Company
The three one-act plays of “Way Back When” take the Bible a politically correct twist away from the texts and the prevailing interpretations.
This is Grant Golden’s “Creation” and “Way Back When” and the late Rebecca Ritchie’s “In the Beginning.”
We meet familiar figures, God (David Lundy), Eve (Kathleen Rooney), Abraham (Jon Summers), Lilith (Pamela Rose Mangus) and Sarah (Rooney).
We also meet Mrs. God (Mangus) and Jacob (Summers), along with Rooney as the Yoo Hoo Puppetmaster.
There’s probably no direct connection, but this show means there are two-semi-biblical shows on local stages, this production and O’Connell & Company with “An Act of God,” which focuses on a God who decides it’s time to move on from humans and Earth.
The New Phoenix show isn’t the King James Bible or even the analysis of that biblical edition in “God’s Secretaries.”
Where it gets beyond the Bible is the focus of all three one-acters.
God is gradually assembling the Heavens and the Earth in “Creation” and testing the attachment of Abraham in “Way Back When,” the plan to have Abraham sacrifice his son Isaac to show his faith.
Mrs. God isn’t happy about the long and slow creation of the world and really disagrees with God about testing Abraham.
Besides, Abraham fears God and loves God, but also loves Isaac and is less loving of the boy Yoo Hoo.
Sarah doesn’t want to lose her only son and is a little more mixed in her views of God.
Ritchie’s “In the Beginning” is a very feminist look at the story of Adam and Eve, working through Lilith, a mysterious figure barely mentioned in the Bible although thought by some to be Adam’s first wife.
Lilith proponents say both she and Adam were made from the mud of the ground while Eve was created from Adam’s rib, giving a fundamentally different origin story to the wives.
Ritchie posits a documentary being made about Adam and Eve, with Eve telling the story of the Garden and the apple and the snake.
Eve is ready to tell the story of a pretty submissive wife and The Great Man.
Here, she’s ready to tell her story when Lilith starts questioning that story because she was there first and has a different view of The Great Man.
It’s a feminist approach of persuading Eve she is denying her substantial role in getting the race up and running and what happened in the garden, where she was friendly with the snake and often talked with him.
Lilith says she tired of Adam and his controlling nature and she eventually walked away from Adam and that life.
It’s hard to make that documentary.
As with the show at O’Connell & Company, this isn’t for those who take their Bible solidly and hot and literally.
If you are more flexible, letting you leave The New Phoenix thinking about what you have seen, with some strong performances, especially Rooney’s Sarah and Mangus’ Lilith.
Lundy’s God is wandering in difficult territory, probably stronger in his interaction with Abraham than when creating the world.
John F. Kennedy contributed a strong and flexible set.
Director Betsy Bittar does well here and maintains the humor of the basic scripts.
The overall “Way Back When” is entertaining and pretty well done and proof of the loss of Rebecca Ritchie on the local stage scene.
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