WASHINGTON D.C. — Last weekend, a production of “Children of Eden” ran at the Levine School of Music. The play, an adaptation of the story of Adam and Eve, their descendants, and Noah and his ark, is a gentle interpretation of God’s relationship to mankind.
The Levine School of Music is a non-profit community music center that accepts students of all ages regardless of their theater background. As a result, “Children of Eden” was a diverse production of actors.
Montgomery County local Manuel Sanchez played Noah in this family-friendly play, whose interaction with the younger actors was both charming and fatherly.
On Saturday night’s performance, Zachary Harris and Katie Gerard Fanning played Adam and Eve, starting off the story with talented, expressive singing and occasional off-beat humor in jazzy music numbers as they interacted with God, who is portrayed only through voice for most of the play.
The production was eye-catching for its creative use of costume and choreography. One instance of this was the biblical snake being portrayed via the choreography of morph-suited actors moving in unison, led by Allie Heiman as the head of the snake. This choreography was particularly well-done due to the timed movement of the actors, whose dancing gave the illusion of a snake coiling around Eve as Heiman spoke in amusing lisps.
The intricate lighting possibilities at the Levine Theater was another aspect of the play that stood out, which sometimes illuminated the audience or made interesting patterns on the stage, such as God’s representation as a spinning ray of light or ripples of water during the flood.
Actors as young as seven years old participated in the play, such as Evangeline Lin, who played one of the animals of the ark. Having a diverse cast of age groups added to the production’s familial atmosphere and emphasized the innocence in this interpretation of the biblical story.
In this play, God is not as wrathful, Cain is not overcome by envy, and eating from the tree of knowledge is not as sinful. “Children of Eden” interprets original sin as more innocent mistakes than damning acts.
God, played by the soft-spoken Jarrett Arnold, is not angry at Eve for eating from the tree of knowledge. Instead, he gently admonishes her, explaining how knowledge will make it difficult for Eve to maintain faith in him.
When Noah’s son wants to marry a descendent of Cain, bearing sin from her ancestor over many generations, Noah is initially against the marriage, but eventually accepts out of love for his son, saying that “God’s intentions are no longer clear.”
In the musical number “The Hardest Part of Love”, Noah and God interact, singing about how difficult it is to be a father. As God accompanies Noah on stage for the first time, he reveals regret in making certain decisions in raising humanity, suggesting that even God makes mistakes.
In the finale, Noah states that humanity’s choices in life is in their hands, and God joins the entire cast on stage, humanizing a deity who is empathetic to humanity’s struggle.
In “Children of Eden,” humanity’s struggle against original sin and God’s well-intentioned but mistaken punishment entailed effects that became more complex by the time of Noah’s generation. Noah himself says in the play that God no longer speaks to him.
This, and the statement that “the choice is up to us,” shows the production’s belief in the necessity for mankind to lead its own legacy. This play shows how difficult it is to maintain faith, whether in a higher power or in one’s trust in a vast unknown.
“Children of Eden” turns the often-misunderstood Christian tale of creation into an imaginative retelling that is not only interesting and easy to understand, but also an endearing story about the difficulty of parenthood.