Photo Credit Jen Maufrais Kelly.jpg. Credit
A Visually Pleasing Take on Old Testament Stories
By Lauren Yarger
If you don’t mind some major rewriting of the Old Testament stories of Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark, take in Astoria Performing Arts Center’s visually satisfying Equity Showcase production of Children of Eden playing through Saturday at the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Queens.
If you’re a stickler for biblical accuracy, then John Caird’s book with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, isn’t for you. But if you’re OK with a little fictionalization, you’ll enjoy this wonderfully designed production with sets by Michael P. Kramer, who creatively transforms a recreational area of the church into a wall-to-wall garden of Eden for the first act and the animal-filed ark for the second act. It’s really fun to watch on the multi-leveled, multi-shaped stage, including some fun shadow puppetry, multi- purpose poles and a beautifully embroidered tunic for God (though I really hated the modern footwear worn by most of the cast -- Hunter Kaczorowski, costume and puppet design; Nicole Gaignat, props design). It’s also great to see the full musical, often presented commercially only in concert or reading form because of the cost of a large cast and sets.
Heading the cast directed by Tom Wojunik are James Zannelli as Father, a really grumpy God who apparently gets out on the wrong side of his heavenly bed to create Adam (Joseph Spieldenner) and Eve (Emmy Raver-Lampman), who gives new meaning to the phrase “talk back to God.” Spieldenner and Raver-Lampman take on the roles of Noah and his wife for the second story.
The band is housed up in the “heavens” above the action, which results in a few missed timings when songs start or end and the un-miked cast can be a little hard to hear at times, especially Eve when she’s singing, but overall, there are fewer glitches than I would have expected given the difficult setup.
Again, there’s a lot of fiction between the lines of scripture here, and an unfortunate apparent message that man needs to rely on himself, rather than God, but the consequences of disobeying God also come through loud and clear, If you haven’t experienced this musical, catch this really satisfying production of it before it closes Saturday. It’s worth the train ride.
Children of Eden runs through May 29 at the Good Lutheran Church, 30-44 Crescent St, Astoria, NYC. Tickets are $18, available online at www.apacny.org or by calling 866-811-4111. Performances are Thursday and Friday at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 and 8 pm. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the Theatre Box Office, 30 minutes prior to the performance. Directions to the theatre: Take the N or W Subway to 30th Avenue. Walk down 30th Ave. to Crescent St. (Mount Sinai Hospital is on the corner.) Walk one block South to 30th Road.
Christians might also like to know:
• No notes in addition to letting you know that the story is fictionalized, rather than biblically accurate.