Review: "Maker of Worlds" Challenges Us to Remake the World

Maker of Worlds

Written by Wendy A. Schmidt

Directed by Jeri Frederickson

Presented by Theater for the New City at the Cabaret Theater

155 First Avenue, Manhattan, NYC

September 2-7, 2019

Amy Gorelow (as Tiffany) Photo credit: Jason Paul Smith
"Be the weapon; be the love" sings Sleater-Kinney on "Bad Dance," a track on the band's new album that contemplates how to react to the sense these days that the world is ending. That phrase could also act as a distillation of Chicago-based playwright Wendy A. Schmidt's Maker of Worlds, currently playing as a part of Theater for the New City's Dream Up Festival. Schmidt has explained that the mission of this absurdist, one-woman play is to "to change the narrative about women, class, and cultural differences by reclaiming religious language for the good" and "to help audiences see their own myths in a new way that better reflects their experiences." With its mix of living, deceased, and divine characters, Maker of Worlds reappropriates and reimagines cultural traditions, primarily Judeo-Christian, for progressive ends, using an approach that is as fun and funny as its subject matter is urgent.

Amy Gorelow (as Martha) Photo credit: Jason Paul Smith
The first character whom we meet is Martha (Amy Gorelow, who plays all of the other characters as well), who demonstrates some recipes to her audience with the delivery typical of the host of a public television cooking or crafting show. Although she says that these recipes are easy for anyone who has the right ingredients, they are certainly a bit higher level than the ones made by another Martha of whom you may be thinking. One, for example, is for the Kingdom of Animals—a group that, it is strongly suggested, is not doing all that well. Martha comes around to discussing her former love of The Doors' Jim Morrison, who became a mythological figure after his death, and current marriage to accountant Warren. Martha also mentions that just as one can create worlds with some simple ingredients, one can also smite people, and though she says that she has gotten out of the smiting business as a married woman (she has particular regrets over Edith, Lot's wife and her friend), she seems to find the idea of melting the polar ice cap attractively amusing. Warren himself praises accounting as a God-given source of order and a set of immutable rules. An inveterate capitalist, he clearly disagrees with his wife about the definition of value and even brings on experts (also Gorelow) to back him up in discussing things such as the potential commodification of rainbows. Meanwhile, Tiffany, Warren's secretary, has been fielding phone calls from both Martha and Liz, whom Tiffany identifies as gods. Liz is Martha's yoga instructor and a slayer of demons, demons which include coal extractors and Rupert Murdoch, and she has been helping Martha to relax in her approach. Will Martha end up flooding the world anyway? And will her ex-living ex-lover make an appearance?

Amy Gorelow (as Warren) Photo credit: Jason Paul Smith
In addition to questions of what we value and what we mean by value, Maker of Worlds tackles issues
 such as the restriction of information by media monopolies; the fear of seeming radical; the contemporary, post-truth practice of pretending that all sides have a valid point; the ways that capitalism encourages destructive behaviors and practices; and whether we can legitimately say that it is the system that is bad, not the people (all of these are, of course, interrelated). The various characters and their conflicts embody these heavy issues in a way that is often comedic, sometimes affecting, always entertaining, and aiming, in the end, to inspire the audience not to, as Liz puts it, to sit around and wait for the world to become just but to go out and fight for that change. Maker of Worlds ends on a poetic note, a melancholy assertion of humanist and humane value(s), that brings the plays full circle and nicely ties its themes together. And if the audience does leave the theater ready to make a new actual world, then it owes something to theater artists who are makers of fictional worlds. As such, Amy Gorelow does excellent work to bring this particular world to life, peopling it with distinct characters in a fantastic performance and using some simple props, from Tiffany's wheeled office chair to Warren's martinis, to enhance the character work. We also feel compelled to note that her trident skills are on point.

Martha observes that both love and darkness are always in us. Liz says that you can make many things out of just the body you have, including a demon slayer. These choices are always available, the play suggests; we just need to make them, and in some cases, keep making them. We can choose to fight the demons, for example, who view environmental apocalypse as an acceptable side effect of a larger profit margin. But if you want an easy choice to start with, you can choose to go see Maker of Worlds.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

[And while you're at Theater for the New City, be sure to check out their ongoing exhibit of  photographs of the signs and awnings of the ever-changing NYC!]


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