Monday, May 17, 2010

Theater Review: Children of Eden in Astoria

The snake tempts Eve (Emmy Raver-Lampman).
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.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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