In The Beginning
A Musical in 2 Acts (originally called 1-2-3-4-5). Book by: David Hahn; Lyrics by: Maury Yeston; Music by: Maury Yeston; Based Upon a Story by God
Manhattan Theatre Club - 1987
Let there be laughter! The first five books of the Old Testament get a good-natured ribbing in this hysterical tribute to all of those ordinary, everyday people who didn’t make it into the Bible. Unremarkable though they may be, these hardy Biblical bystanders somehow survive calamity after calamity in outrageous fashion, inventing some useful and practical devices along the way (including the Life Saver – the candy, that is), escaping enslavement in ancient Egypt and helping a young man named Cain find his redemption.
Zymah enters, against a blue scrim, dressed as a magician. He relates the story of the beginning of the world and tells the audience that there was much more than we know in the beginning. A scrim flies up, revealing a garden and a group of people. They reveal to the audience that before the fall, life was good and Adam and Eve were not alone in the garden. Eve gives Adam the apple and everyone strikes a pose as the voice of God tells them all to “get out!”
In scene 3, the group is huddled outside a garden gate with a sign on it that reads “keep out.” As they begin to stand up and figure out what just happened, one of the women emits a piercing scream. They are all suddenly aware of their nakedness and their differences. They scramble to sort themselves out into two groups and grasp for things to cover up. The men realise that they are attracted to the women and the women begin to beautify themselves. The conversations that take place within the men and women’s groups hint at the birth of the battle of the sexes. As they begin to wonder how and where they will find food, Zymah appears, dressed as a caveman. He introduces the group to hunting and gathering. The men decide that they should go, while the women stay to “cook, clean and manage the campsit; have children and take care of them and, of course, always stay beautiful.” The women all exit leaving Arielle alone. She longs for the way that things were and wonders if there is anyone out there; any greater force, that knows who she is and will protect and guide her.
Scene 4 is a crossover scene between Romer and Ben. They are hunting in the woods and arguing over what the new things they have invented (spears, balls) should be named. We discover that Ben is in love with Mavis and Romer with Arielle. The men throw their spear offstage, killing an animal. Back at the campsite, Arielle is carrying water when a strange man enters. She attacks him, but discovers that he means no harm. His name is Avi. He asks for water and offers to go to the river and bring more back. When Arielle says that carrying water is a women’s job, he replies that work is work and he doesn’t differentiate. This mentality intrigues Arielle and she begins to treat Avi with kindness. He thanks her and tells her that he was once a dreamer like she is. He then leaves as quickly as he came.
The other women enter and wonder when the men are coming home. Just then, Arielle spots Romer and Ben in the distance. They enter the camp and greet the women. Romer hits on Arielle, but when he is rejected, kisses Lydia on the mouth and tells her that that is just one of the things he learned in the real world. He then goes on to tell them all what it is like. He tells them all to pack up their things and head off to a place where there are many people; where there is plenty of food and lots of work and money.
The group breaks up to prepare for the journey. Romer, alone with Arielle, offers her a gift before mating. She shrugs him off and exits. Lydia then enters, trying to catch Romer’s eye. He catches on and offers her the same gift. Just then a scream is heard off stage and Avi enters carrying an unconscious Zeke. After some questioning and debate, the tribe decides that Avi is good and should join them on their journey. A jealous Romer warns that they will regret the decision.
Scene 6 takes place in town, some time later. The town looks like a biblical Rodeo Drive where all of the shop signs feature the name “Romer” or “Lydia.” Several things happen in this scene. Through the conversations and transactions of the people and the shop owners, it is clear that money is already beginning to corrupt the town. Mrs. Noah makes an appearance and warns everyone that they are investing too much time and energy in man-made things. They gossip about the boat her husband is building and dismiss her. It is also disclosed in this scene that Avis and Arielle are smitten with each other, but that things are moving very slowly. Mavis tries to butt in and speed things up, but fails. Romer tries to persuade Arielle to be his other wife, but as always, she is uninterested.
Mrs. Noah and her daughters-in-law observe the very materialistic and self-absorbed Lydia in the centre of town. Mrs. Noah warns her girls about the dangers of vanity. One of the girls asks if that is why they are not going on the cruise. Shortly thereafter, it begins to rain. Ben and Mavis are in the middle of an argument about a clay pot that Ben broke. Mavis is obsessed with her possessions and just can’t buy enough. She describes her need to have more of everything. The rains fall harder. They soon realise that the barrels float and try to seek shelter in them. Romer shouts for help and Avi jumps in to save him. Zymah appears to one side holding a large clear glass globe of the world, which he fills with water until it overflows.
Meanwhile, out on the sea, Ben and Mavis are still arguing about a time when Ben was rude to Mavis in town. Ben carefully points out that a lot has happened since then (i.e. the destruction of the world) and that maybe they should just make up.
Scene 8: Slowly, all of the characters meet up with one another and realise that they are not alone. Romer is devastated that everything he built is destroyed and everyone else seems relieved. Someone spots a flower, and they all stand around it, hoping that it will turn into a garden. Zymah then enters carrying a seed bag. He offers some seeds to them, but they claim that they don’t need them. The flower dies and they all run off after Zymah. Avi and Arielle stay behind. Arielle tells Avi, who is her husband now, that she is going to have a baby. He mumbles that he “never should have allowed himself…” and exits.
Scene 9: It is some time later, and Mavis, Dottie and Lydia are working on a farm. Mavis says that she thinks Arielle has gone into labour. Dottie responds that a baby is always a good sign and reminds them that Abraham’s Sarah is also pregnant.
Mavis shouts that Arielle’s had a baby boy. When they run to Avi to tell him the news, he continues his work and ignores them. Mavis tells him that his baby was born out of love and that he had better start cherishing and teaching him. Avi wonders what he should teach him. Avi teaches his son the words moon and stars, and when Arielle comes out to join him, he adds the word love.
Scene 10: It is seven years later, and since the birth of Arielle and Avi’s son, there hasn’t been a drop of rain. They all agree that they must leave their camp, once again, and join the people of Abraham. Avi is against this at first, but agrees for the sake of his son. They tell of their plans to live in Egypt. Others join them as they begin their journey.
Segue into Scene 11: We are now in Egypt, in the presence of Pheti, the king. He is preparing to welcome the new “visitors” to Egypt. However, when they arrive, it is clear to them that they are going to be slaves to Pheti. End Act I
Zymah enters with a couple of angels preparing for a magic trick. He produces two glasses, one empty, and one full of water. One of the angels holds up a sign that reads “plague #1.” Zymah pours the water into the empty glass and it turns into blood. Then the angel holds up another sign that reads “plague #2” and Zymah produces a frog and the sound of frogs multiplies and overwhelms the audience. Zymah and the angels exit and the action turns to the cast painting hieroglyphics in a tomb. Avi, who has been forced to do outside labour, comes in to visit his family and friends and relay the word that Moses and his people are leaving Egypt that night. He tells them that they must go with them. Romer argues that everything Avi suggests will get them into more trouble. Just then, Ptapateepa enters and informs them that the pharaoh’s mother has died and that they are to be buried with her in the tomb that they are painting. He and his assistant Pheti quickly leave as others prepare the tomb to be sealed. Just when they think all is lost, Aaron, son of Arielle and Avi, notices that a door has not been shut. They begin tomake their way out of the tomb. Once they are outside, they join Moses and his people.
Avi, Ben and Romer are walking in the desert contemplating the significance of the number 40 (forty day flood, forty years in the desert, forty days that Moses has been on the mountain, etc.). They are interrupted by a man that looks just like Ptapateepa in Israelite garb. He tells them that he got out too, and that they are having a barbecue complete with dancing girls and beer that evening. Romer and Ben get ready for the festivities, but Avi declines. Romer insists that he is hiding something, but Avi shakes him off. The men leave.
In scene five, Dottie and Lydia are getting ready for the barbecue. Looking out of their window, they can see that a big orgy is taking place and they are more than curious. Arielle then enters reading the bible. The girls cannot believe that with all the excitement outside, she can read a book. Arielle tells them that it is not just any book, but the history of the world, and that nowhere in it are women mentioned! They decide to go to the orgy and show the men some real women. This segues into the orgy ballet. At the height of the dancing and frivolity, Zymah’s voice is heard offstage yelling “Stop that.” The revellers look up and freeze as the sky turns blood red.
Scene 7: Romer enters and joins Arielle and Avi, claiming that he has finally uncovered Avi’s secret. He confronts him and accuses him of being Cain, the first murderer in the bible. Arielle is shocked and Avi just backs away. Romer tells him that he will take care of Arielle and Aaron from now on and that he must leave at once. Romer stares victoriously at Arielle and leaves. He starts to leave, but Aaron shouts to him. Avi teaches him the word “goodbye.” Avi leaves and Arielle calls after him. Romer enters and corrects her, referring to Avi as Cain, and taking Aaron’s hand in his.
In scene 8, Avi meets Zymah who is sweeping up the pieces of the Ten Commandments. They begin talking and Avi realises that Zymah is God. He asks him what he should do and if he is forgiven. Zymah tells him that his life is not over yet, and, therefore, cannot be judged. He also advises him to fight for his family and trust his wife’s unshakeable faith. Zymah leaves, asking Avi to look after the commandments, and blesses Avi when his back is turned.
Scene 9: Meanwhile, back at the campsite, Arielle is confronting Romer, asking for her son back. Avi enters and admits to them all that he is Cain. At first, the others are not sure what to think. But Avi is patient and tells them that he has come back to share with them the commandments, telling them that he believes they are the key to a better life. Slowly they all come around, including Romer. They prepare to cross the Jordan together, but this time, instead of running from something, they are running toward something.
- Overture: The Big Bang - Pianist
- Busy Busy - God, Angels
- In The Beginning - Company
- Is Someone Out There? - Arielle
- In The Town - Romer, The Tribe
- Till The End Of Time - Avi, Arielle
- One For A Rainy Day - Mavis, Company
- You’re There Too - Ben
- Baby At 110 - The Tribe, Neighbours
- New Words - Avi, Arielle
- Long Before Our Time - Dottie, Mavis, The Tribe
- Family Tree - Avi, The Tribe
- On The Road - Company
- Hello Hello - Pheti, Ptapateepa
- Entr’acte: The Plagues - Pianist
- Feet - Company
- No Women In The Bible - Mavis, Dottie, Lydia, Arielle
- The Orgy: Golden Calf Ballet - Pianist
- Family - Avi
- No Man’s As Wonderful - Arielle
- Hope - Company
- Zymah - God, who appears variously as a magician, or helpful stranger, comic
- Avi - A Wanderer with a hidden identity
- Arielle - Strong and independent woman, in love with Avi
- Romer - Self-proclaimed leader of the tribe
- Lydia - Romer's mate, brassy and fun
High Belt and Soprano
- Ben - A sweet soul, inventor and namer of things for the tribe
- Mavis - His wife, sexy & blunt, a great girl
High Belt and Soprano
- Zeke - The tribe's painter and recorder
- Dottie - Magic Mommy, Zeke's wife and a great nurturer
High Belt and Soprano
- Pheti - Power-crazed Egyptian overlord
- Ptapateepa - Pheti's trusty assistant
- Aaron - The son of Avi & Arielle
- CHORUS - Angels, Townspeople, Farmers, Slaves, Guards, Hebrews