On stage

Teacher Susan (Alida Holguín Gunn) tries to resolve a science-religion conflict with student Micah (Rene Junius).

“How the World Began,” Something Something Theater Company’s season-ender, has its problems: It is overly contrived and an excess of exposition threatens to drag it down.

Nevertheless, the Catherine Trieschmann play grabs you and keeps you to the end.

Much of that is due to a cast firmly committed to the story and the swift, strong direction by Avis Judd.

The play has just three characters: Susan (Alida Holguín Gunn), a single, pregnant woman who has left her New York home to teach in a tornado-ravaged Kansas town; Micah (Rene Junius), one of Susan’s students, withdrawn, wounded, and outraged that his teacher has referred to non-scientific theories about the origins of the universe as “gobbledygook”; and Gene (Paul Hammack), Micah’s guardian who is trying to appease the traumatized teen and finagle an apology out of Susan for disparaging Micah’s Christian beliefs.

Gunn’s Susan is not a pushover, and to see the flashes of anger, her ease with which she asserts herself, is kind of thrilling. But she is also tender and concerned about her student. Gunn gave us a full character.

Hammack’s Gene is attentive to and confused as to how to help his young ward. And Junius’ Micah is so gawky, so intense and angry, that he made his beliefs and the devastation the tornado brought him palpable.

It’s easy to see where the story is going — Susan must apologize or leave her teaching post, Micah’s torment goes beyond what his teacher says. We long for the playwright to more deeply examine the devastation of loss, the role of faith in education, even how to reach an unreachable teen.

Even though she doesn’t, she has created interesting characters, and this cast and solid production make us care and hang on.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@tucson.com or 573-4128. On Twitter: @kallenStar