Preview: Darwin in Malibu at the Main Street Theater


For nearly five years, a young Charles Darwin traveled from his home in England on a sea voyage that took him around the coasts of South America and the neighboring Galapagos Islands, to the southern tip of South Africa and finally to Australia and its adjacent islands.

Nowhere in all of his travel records does he show a trip to Malibu, let alone a Malibu beach house. But this is exactly where the playwright Crispin Whittell put Darwin, although 120 years after the death of the famous evolutionist.

In Darwin to Malibu, Darwin (David Harlan) is joined by contemporaries of the nineteenth century: the Bishop of Oxford Samuel Wilberforce (Rutherford Cravens) and scientist Thomas huxley (Joel Sandel) who in their day held great debates on Darwin’s theories of evolution (now generally accepted as fact). To this is added Sara (Mai Le), a young companion of Darwin’s, who appears periodically as they continue their discussions.

Main Street Theater artistic director Rebecca Greene Udden, who directs, says she chose this play – a regional premiere – for the opening of their 2021-22 season because “it’s so fun and fair. the notion of these three and Wilberforce is no buffoon. He was a man of the church, he was a bishop. He was just a true believer and those kind of great minds kept the discussion going 100 years after their deaths. It’s really fun. ”

“This is an ongoing philosophical discussion. It starts out as a discussion between Wilberforce and Huxley about creationism versus Darwinism and Wilberforce is still trying to make the creationist argument and Huxley doesn’t care.

“But it touches on other areas. It explains how life began and what we know about life after death. It kind of changes not just at the beginning of life, but what happens after our life. dead. Of course Wilberforce has it all and Huxley and Darwin aren’t so sure. ”

“Darwin looks quite open-minded. He recognizes what he doesn’t know unlike Huxley and Wilberforce.”

Huxley and Wilberforce wear the type of clothes they would have worn later in life, but Darwin, with a long beard, wears a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and sandals.

Rather than sorting out anything to the umpteenth degree, the play raises questions, says Udden. “There are times when people seem to have clarity, but it’s not all about a particular response one way or the other.”

Main Street COVID protocols require masks to be worn and members of the public must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. To date, the theater has received only one refund request from someone unwilling to follow these stipulations designed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Udden says.

Fortunately too, she said, Darwin to Malibu has a small cast and there are no love scenes.

The pay has three acts and lasts about 90 minutes. When we spoke, Udden said they still haven’t decided whether to continue or take a break between Act 2 and Act 3.

Getting to the end of the play – which admittedly has a lot of talk – apparently has its rewards. “There’s an exciting moment at the end when the bishop decides to show his truth and starts to strip down and wants everyone to do the same,” Udden says.

“You don’t need to have read The origin of the species“, or memorized the Genesis chapter of the Bible to enjoy this piece,” Udden says. “It’s very accessible.”

Performances are scheduled for Oct. 2-24 at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Main Street Theater – Rice Village, 2540 Times Boulevard. Customers will be required to wear masks and show their vaccination record or a negative COVID test (within 48 hours) before entering the theater. For more information, call 713-524-6706 or visit $ 35 to $ 59.


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