Rivendell (Kind of) Tells Us How the World Began

How did the world begin? I figured that would be the question answered in a Rivendell Theatre’s production of the show titled How the World Began. But as I read the synopsis, I was overjoyed to hear that I was wrong. Instead, it offers a deceivingly simple plotline that is guaranteed to result in some intense conversation topics later about how we live out our beliefs. Never before have I witnessed a three person show that ropes me in instantly and then makes me question and evaluate the world around me.

Rivendell Theatre prides itself on being the sole stage in Chicago that showcases plays that are centered around women both onstage and off. They’ve been around since 1994 aiming to inspire women (and men) to speak out-particularly about topics relevant to everyone. The theater itself is a little challenging to find; it blends right in with the small-town community feel that surrounds it. The Rivendell Theatre (5779 N. Ridge Ave) is about a five minute walk from the Bryn Mawr Red Line Stop.

How the World Began’s plot begins by introducing Susan, an awkward biology teacher who always speaks her mind. She’s the new teacher in town and by town, I mean a hard core religious community. That would be hard enough for a New Yorker to take in, but Susan also happens to be pregnant, unmarried, and not religious.  Since this Kansas community recently lost town members to a tornado, many citizens have deepened their faith. When Susan’s awkward student, Micah, confronts Susan for her apparently insulting him by calling religion a bunch of “goobilty gook”, she is faced with mountains of unexpected negative consequences. It is later that the audience is introduced to the big-mouthed gossip of the city, Gene, who happens to be Micah’s sort of guardian. I’m going to stop there, though, since spoilers can, well, spoil the fun. But let me tell you:

While the plot seems simple enough, How the World Began is unquestionably complex. The characters are so real that you find yourself relating to them in some way. Themes in this show bring up the conflicts of the debate students and faculty face regarding if religion and school can or can’t be separated. In today’s society, it can be problematic to express your beliefs, particularly in a school setting. We live in a world of conformity and, while it may not be as extreme and harsh as the Kansas town portrayed, people will stick out when they swim against the social current. As Micah asks Susan, “Why does it scare you so much? Saying your beliefs out loud,” the audience can’t help but feel themselves being asked the same question. In addition, How the World Began isn’t afraid to touch upon the high levels of judgement we face on a daily basis. Do we really get to dictate what people believe about us?

All in all, I can say that Rivendell’s production of How the World Began is a treasure. Every scene is believable and acted to a tee. Never before have I witnessed a three person show that ropes me in instantly and, later, makes me question and evaluate both myself and others. Performances run until October 10th, with 8pm shows Thursdays to Saturdays (Saturday has a bonus 4pm showing as well). As you watch the plot unfold, prepare to laugh and be wowed. A character states that, “people are going to believe what they want to believe,” which is debatably true. While walking out of the Rivendell Theatre I realized that I believe this production shouldn’t be missed.

How the World Began will be at Rivendell Theatre (5779 N. Ridge Ave.) through Oct. 10. Tickets are $22-$32 and can be purchased here.

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