As sensitively staged by Daniella Topol, "How the World Began" casts each of its three characters in a reasonably sympathetic light — the pregnant, unwed teacher (Sarah Rafferty), the fervently religious student whom she's offended (Jarett Sleeper) and the young man's de facto guardian (Time Winters). When all three are on stage together, the drama becomes incendiary.
Rafferty in particular brings an identifiable conciliatory factor to her character, however misguided she considers the other two. As a fish out of water in the heartland, she endeavors to curry favor with the locals without sacrificing her basic beliefs. But appeasement only goes so far, and occasionally she'll blurt out an expletive that leaves no doubt where her true feelings lie.
Sleeper's high school student, the fulcrum for the clash of wills, is somewhat of a problem. As a young man who's lost his hated stepfather in a twister, he's naturally conflicted, and his teacher unwittingly ignites his suppressed passions. There's no "give" in his robotic approach to the situation.
More understandable, if no less dangerous, is Winters' folksy ex-postmaster who shifts easily from amicability to hostility. This character has his young ward's interests to guard, yet appears more reasonable, at least on the surface. It's a beautifully layered performance.
Trieschmann and director Topol have endeavored to present a balanced account of this age-old battle of beliefs, giving each character myriad ammunition for an intellectual assault. Given the location, the victor in this conflict seems preordained, but at what cost to all concerned?