‘How to Catch Creation’ at the Goodman Asks “What Will You Leave Behind?”

Daphne Watson, Staff Writer

The Goodman Theatre has a long history of providing a platform for playwrights and other creatives of color to express themselves. Christina Anderson’s, “How to Catch Creation,” is the ultimate voyeuristic experience.

A contemporary story set in San Francisco, California, Anderson’s tale connects the past, present and future of six people who, from the outside, have no obvious ties. Griffin is a formerly incarcerated man trying to rebuild his life and create a family after decades in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. What he sees as his first hurdle is that he’s unattached unless you count his lifelong best friend: university art chair, Tami.

Tami is a realist and a lesbian. She’s been by Griffin’s side throughout his incarceration, championing his innocence. Now that he’s free and touring the country as a guest speaker and living comfortably, Griffin lacks fulfillment. So does Tami, but she won’t say that out loud.

This show is black and queer but not in a way that shouts down at anyone about equality or civil rights. It just is, just as people are.

Tami and Griffin laugh and drink and fight and cry. The affection and care they have for one another ripples to the back wall of the Albert Theatre. There’s no denying what they have. It is love. A loyal-to-the-ends-of-time love.

When Riley, a computer tech, and Stokes, a painter, enter the show the audience is exposed to a young but also settled love. One that is familiar in Riley’s dogged support of Stokes and his art that forsakes her own. His baker’s dozen MFA rejections have him near the edge of defeat. He’s lost something, just like Griffin, but tries to paint himself into remembrance. On his way home one day he finds a box of old books by a black feminist named G.K. Marche. Riley entertains Stokes’s enthusiasm yet presses him about moving forward with his MFA applications. Stokes brushes her off in favor of his latest obsession: G.K. Marche. Riley isn’t having it and marches into Tami’s office and demands to know why Stokes was rejected, but also asks for advice on how to guide his art. This encounter begins a spiraling story full of humanity’s triumphs and failures, and they all connect back to G.K. Marche.

Marche arrives in this contemporary play by way of 1966 where she’s made a life with her seamstress lover, Natalie, who has a fledgling design business. Their love is taboo for the times, but they are in awe of one another.  

These six people literally revolve around the stage and each other until they all come crashing together. Each one desperate to create something that’ll outlive them and have them remembered.

Rod Rosenthal’s set design is an industrial marvel. A runway bisects the stage and a large turntable is on either side. These turntables are wedges of setting, of life, of time and space, and the actors move in and out, across and through, these planes of existence in a natural way.  Downstage is utilized to spotlight important revelations and turning points of the plot, close enough for even those in nosebleed seats to register the emotions on the actors’ faces.

“How to Catch Creation” is complex and delivers its realness with charm and class. Director Niegel Smith’s meticulous eye and visceral energy is recognizable from his directing of Suzan-Lori Parks’s “Father Comes Home from the Wars (parts one to three)” last year. These actors understand the roles they’re playing on a DNA level because these people are real, not exaggerations of reality. Smith has given them room to live these parts. It’s evident by the fluidity of movement and the utterly believable character arcs. The music roots each character to their place in the universe and changes as they change.

Although there are moments where the show lags and some heavier topics aren’t given enough time, such as exploring what black feminism means and prison reform, this world premiere run is a journey and a gauntlet. “How to Catch Creation” is a charge to live in truth, take risks in this impermanence of life, and make space for others to do the same.

“How to Catch Creation” runs through Feb. 24, 2019.