Theatre Review: Philadelphia Theatre Company’s HOW TO CATCH CREATION at Suzanne Roberts Theatre

Creation means different things in Christina Anderson’s play.  Creating life, creating art, creating their own story; the characters are all striving to find meaning and fulfillment in their own way.  Throughout the time they spend on stage, their stories highlight universal truths about connection and artistic expression, and ask difficult questions about how our lives can be dictated by circumstances beyond our control, as well as by the small choices we make whose impact may not be felt until much later.

How to Catch Creation takes place “in a world that has similarities to The Bay” and the first thing you will notice when you take your seat is the impressive representation of the Golden Gate Bridge to help set the scene (scenic design by Jason Sherwood).  This production utilizes a double rotating stage to maximum effect, allowing moments from different times or places to play out side-by-side, juxtaposing the ways in which our stories can mirror one another, regardless of who or where we are.  The stage rotation is also pushed to its dizzying limits at least twice, disorienting and exhilarating all at once.  The lighting (designed by Xavier Pierce) helps the audience focus on the important parts of the stage, even as multiple scenes play out simultaneously, and a lighted mural sets much of the mood with changing colors from calming blues to electrifying oranges.  The music (sound design by Curtis Craig) ties a visceral, thrumming thread between scene changes.

9019 - Shayna Small Jonathan Bangs Lindsay Smiling and Stephanie Weeks
Shayna Small, Jonathan Bangs, Lindsay Smiling, and Stephanie Weeks

How to Catch Creation takes place in 1966-67 and 2014, with a very brief foray into an important moment in 1988.  In 2014, Griffin (Lindsay Smiling), a man who has recently been released after being wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years, decides he wants to have a baby.  His friend Tami (Stephanie Weeks), an artist who hasn’t painted in years, offers support and surprise at his realization as she becomes romantically entangled with Riley (Shayna Small), a young woman who has buried herself in supporting her would-be artist boyfriend.  The boyfriend, Stokes (Jonathan Bangs), in his late-20s and dealing with a barrage of rejection from M.F.A. programs, finds a box of books by a local writer named G.K. Marche (Tiffani Barbour).  All of these characters will eventually flow in and out of one another’s lives, leaving lasting impressions.  Meanwhile, in 1966, G.K. writes and writes and writes as her increasingly beleaguered partner Natalie (Shauna Miles) attempts to realize her own dreams of success.

There is a lot of love in Anderson’s play, but there is also a lot of pain.  As the characters struggle to understand who they are and what that means for the people around them, there can be complications.  Griffin’s battle to be seen for the man he is and not what the legal system made him poses crucial questions about incarceration and reintegration.  In this way and others, How to Catch Creation raises interesting and difficult questions about who might be worthy of creation, whether that is of life or of art.

1513 - Tiffani Barbour and Shauna Miles
Tiffani Barbour and Shauna Miles

How to Catch Creation also proves the power and importance of representation for queer characters and characters of color.  These are stories we want to hear and should hear.  It is important for us all to remember that in the world of storytelling, there is room for everyone’s unique experience.  This play highlights those experiences as simultaneously universal and personal, making them accessible for all, but vital for others.

Anderson’s play is beautifully written and this production (directed by Nataki Garrett) is carefully designed.  While the stories being told are ultimately serious in many ways, you will spend a fair portion of your time in the theatre laughing.  Tami, especially, delivers some of the most hilarious lines of the night.  But in the end, life and art take every part of us; darkness and light, fear and hope, sadness and love.

How to Catch Creation runs through April 14th at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on Broad Street.  Don’t miss out on this important and beautiful production.  You can find more information and purchase tickets online here.

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