Apple sauce

Adam and Eve show a lot of cheek in 11th Street's Arthur Miller revival

I was less enthralled with Kevin Keating as Lucifer and Jeff Bush as God, for reasons difficult to pinpoint. Of the two, Bush seemed far more suited for his role; the tone of snotty impatience he brought to the Old Testament creator was appropriate, and he was able to carry this effectively into the character's more serious second-act incarnation as an aggrieved, tough-love grandfather. But he had zero chemistry with Keating's Lucifer, who does get the chance to banter with him while the two jockey for position in the minds and hearts of the first family. Keating has done well in broader comic roles, especially ones that involve some degree of smarminess (he excels at characters who have an exceedingly high opinion of themselves). But Miller's portrait of Lucifer, with its pointillist shades of sympathy and conflict, ambition and good intentions, seems to evade Keating. While watching him and Bush together, I couldn't help but wonder what each would bring to the other man's role.

The Creation of the World and Other Business does more than just shake down the book of Genesis for all its omissions, contradictions, and lapses. Miller is a dramatic craftsman of the kind we rarely see any more; he has the chops to answer almost every question he raises, and in this play he does manage to resolve the illogic, caprice, and cruelty into an understanding that God--however you define him, her, or it--isn't so much truth as humanity's desire for truth. Eve makes the best of the world around her, until all her materials are yanked away when one of her sons kills another. Forget explanation; it's her desire for remorse from Cain that becomes her prayer.

The Creation of the World and Other Business runs through May 23. Call (214) 522-PLAY.

Banter
When you're in North Texas discussing Millennium Approaches, the first half of Tony Kushner's wildly praised "gay fantasia" Angels in America, the inevitable comparison has got to be Richard Hamburger's award-winning staging two years ago. But that premiere was by no means the defining production of a play that's been revived over the last three years at regional theaters, colleges, and high schools across the country. Kushner himself told me in an interview two years ago for the opening of Hamburger's staging that his favorite production so far had been a college show put on in a student center's basement.

Referring to Hamburger's staging, director Jim Covault says "our space is very different [from the Kalita Humphreys]." Covault is mounting the Fort Worth premiere of Millennium Approaches inside their marvelous theater-in-the-round space next to Texas Christian University. "And obviously, so is our budget. Those things, to an extent, dictate how we created this show. I read an essay recently that suggested a minimalist approach to Kushner's script might be best. They compared it to Our Town. That's essentially the approach we're taking. "

The essay Covault refers to is contained in a newly published collection of critical pieces, all dedicated to Kushner's two-part epic about race, sex, and religion experienced by a handful of very different people during the Reagan '80s. This book joins what has practically become a cottage industry for critics and academics, who expend an almost religious energy looking at Angels in America from every possible angle.

It's enough to make you feel a little sorry for Kushner, whose new play has just bowed at Houston's Alley Theatre. "I was talking to a playwright the other day," Covault says, "and he claimed he didn't envy Kushner's success. The question 'What do I do now?' is a big one."

But it's also enough to make cynics want to clip the wings of these Angels, who've been fluttering around as if they were the definitive guardians of the gay political voice in American theater.

"In a way, all the stuff that's written about it has done the play a disservice," Covault says. "Some of the essays [in the new book] are just ridiculous. One writer took Kushner to task because there was no Marxist social agenda for change in the play. But I have to say, now that I'm working with the cast, it's pretty amazing the variety of lenses you can use to look at what Kushner's saying. There's very few American plays out there that cover a historical period from so many different angles: the Mormon stuff, the Jewish element, the gay perspective, the conservatism and the race issues. Performing this play really is like performing Shakespeare; you don't realize how everything interconnects until you're in the middle of it."

Covault notes how the unpredictability of Kushner's muse and his wild swings from seriousness to shameless comedy are reflected in the man's political activism; he often voices grassroots outrage with pointed humor.

"I just read a speech he gave before a college, and it was really fabulous. Quite funny. He began by talking about how Congress had earmarked millions in taxes to promote teenage sexual abstinence. He argued that, if conservatives wanted to stop teenagers from having sex, they ought to pour more money into the National Endowment for the Arts. Art was a terrific outlet for unused sexual energy, he said, and he could personally testify to that."

Angels in America: Millennium Approaches runs through June 6. Call (817)

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