By Alex Miller
In a small black box theater, the floor, walls, and ceiling set the stage before our performer ever does. The deep black everything gives an impression of the void before the gods created creation. A few otherwise unremarkable objects soon take a turn for the supernatural: a black electric guitar and amp, a small table with red‑and‑blue striped cloth, and a broom resting against a wall stage left. The guitar will become Jim Morrison’s guitar. The cloth will lift to show the ingredients the gods used to create people, earth, and planets, and the broom they used to sweep up any excess.
Amy Gorelow, in a play by Wendy A. Schmidt, offers a variety of deities, a sparing amount of Jim Morrison, and some minor characters (an administrative assistant and random accountants), in a comedy that isn’t as funny as it sounds.
Our first deity, Martha, informs us that “it’s easy to make different worlds,” and with a potato, toothpicks, and some salt, she creates Saturn. As she recounts the events of Sodom and Gomorrah, uproariously cackling at the thought of destroying people through the centuries, she is a convincing god with smiting and petulance on her mind. She’s married to Warren, an accountant who informs us that “accounting was given to us by Jesus!” as he violently scribbles accounting jargon across a large drawing pad on an easel. He’s an alcoholic, and doesn’t care if you know it. He contacts other accountants to confirm what he’s attempting to prove: greed is good. His administrative assistant chats on the phone with another god, a yogi named Liz, about killing Rupert Murdoch because the media is too biased. Liz eventually does kill Murdoch, and informs us that we can do something similar in order to find real truth.
The biggest problem with this play is what, where, and why it is what it is.
Sure, there’s the allegorical nature of the thing… our own battles with personal flaws, and our fight for happiness in a world that peddles hate, self‑interest, and destruction. These lessons don’t come across clearly or accurately enough to be given a second thought.
The characters are lively, engaging, even likeable. But so much of this play is incoherent that incoherence should have been included as an actual character. The play is really trying to stand on its feet, and it almost manages to do so. The talents of Ms. Gorelow are undeniable. The concept is a good idea. And under the direction of Jeri Frederickson, this should have been a home run of a show. However, like a table with only three good legs, this play wobbles when it should be sturdy. Its very colorful characters overburden an unbalanced work that begs for correction.
The premise of multiple gods living simple lives while judging the populace isn’t a concept that’s doomed from the start. But the plot and motivations begin to come apart when the god Martha, who appears to be the monotheistic God‑having created planets and people, and now heavy‑handedly judging them‑mentions her husband, the accountant. Suddenly, the play is about accounting. Then it’s about Fox News and killing Rupert Murdoch. It aims so hard to hit a mark it can’t see, it eventually shoots itself in the foot.
“Maker of Worlds”
Written by Wendy A. Schmidt
Performed by Amy Gorelow
Directed by Jeri Frederickson
September 2 – September 7, 2019
Photo credit: Jason Paul Smith
Dream Up Festival 2019
Theater for the New City
155 1st Avenue
New York City
ALEX MILLER, a Chicago native, has been a professional writer and editor for 6 years. He joined the Navy in 2004, and served for four years in such places as Haiti, Iraq, and Somalia. He has a degree in Public Engagement from The New School, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Forbes, The New York Daily News, and QZ, among others. He lives in Harlem.