A Darwinian Love Story
By Sara Gmitter
Directed by Jessica Thebus
At Lookingglass Theatre, Chicago
Evolution vs. Creationism is wrapped up in a wonderful romance
Playwright Sara Gmitter learned that Charles Darwin (Andrew White), the world famous author of The Origin of Species and an agnostic, was married to a devote Christian. The two, while acknowledging their difference on faith, did have an amazingly loving and supportive marriage filled with love, tolerance, loyalty, and understanding. That was the juice for an engaging play.
Gmitter was able to capture the reasoning and scientific method behind Darwin’s conclusions in a theatrical and personal presentation of an amazingly inquisitive and disciplined scientist without sacrificing his humanity. We see his dilemma and his torment as he slowly realizes that scientific evidence debunks the Bible’s creationist beliefs. yet, his wife, Emma (Rebecca Spence) not only supported her husband, she proofed his manuscripts despite her personal religious differences.
What made Emma and Charles’ marriage work was their lifelong passion, respect and devotion. We see how they continued to debate evolution vs salvation as strong-willed independent individuals yet they could departmentalize their differences in order to create a compassionate family environment.
Chronicling Charles Darwin’s discoveries was nicely and effectively presented due to Gmitter’s fluid writing upon Collette Pollard’s suggestive set. Director Jessica Thebus’ staging underscores the ambitious storytelling effectively. The combination of telling Charles’ amazing rise to fame as the most controversial writer of the 19th Century and his lifelong romance made for an engaging play. Enough of the evolution vs. salvation debate was expressed without sinking into intellectual snobbery or religious mockery. We actually empathize with Darwin as he gets attacked for his discovery and we realize that the debate still occurs today, sadly.
.Andrew White is most empathetic as the troubled scientist while Rebecca Spence was terrific as the strong willed and loyal spouse. Austin Tichenor and Cindy Gold were game players who wonderfully shifted from character to character. Youngsters John Francis Babbo and Caroline Heffeman had several fine moments.
In the Garden is a worthy play that combines the story of a world changing scientist who was able to maintain a romance with his wife despite their religious differences. In the Victorian Era, as today, that is hard to deal with. This work is intellectually stimulating yet wholesomely a romantic love story and a fine family drama. The powerful test of the family resolve with Anna’s illness is a heart wrenching testimony to family love. In the Garden is a wonderful drama that begs to be seen.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: April 26, 2014
For more info checkout the In the Garden page at theatreinchicago.com