There's a charming new musical opening off-Broadway this week that expertly injects new life into the oldest story: The Garden of Eden. Falling For Eve depicts a re-imagining of the story of creation, interplay between Adam and Eve, and how God dealt with it all, emotionally. Although this retelling is more a caricature than an attempt to educate, there's nonetheless plenty to take away from the play.
Beyond the interesting and innovate take on the story, the cast delivers a well-rounded performance led by Jose Llana in the role of Adam. While all the cast members have the proper training in voice and dance, Llana demonstrates incredible comedic timing and body control that provide the most raucous laughs in the 90-minute show. He's also perfectly cast, perfectly suited to play the first man on earth.
Krystal Joy Brown stars as Adam's soul mate, Eve, and shows off her outstanding vocals in the show stopping mid-performance "Where Will I Sleep Tonight?" Between Llana and Brown, the musical has two stars carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Like in many musicals, it's the music that remains the most memorable after the show. Two-time Tony winner Joe DiPietro's book boasts an array of styles of music that convey both the tension and the love story that infuse the first story of Genesis. DiPietro, along with lyricist David Howard makes the Bible come alive, especially with his natural imagery inside the song "Eve." What makes these songs so compelling is their ability to weave modern references - "Good Things Are A Comin'" takes it to another level - into the old tale.
With any off-Broadway show, especially one that hasn't yet debuted, there are going to be issues that need to be resolved. In this show, the problems arise inside the relationship between God's two main angels, Michael and Sarah. They serve as a confusing mix of comic relief and secondary love match. As Michael and Sarah grow closer to one another as the story grows on, you can't help but long for their earlier appearances built around humor and comfort. If director Larry Raben wished to bring those two together, he could have done so at the end, even if it appeared to be all too convenient and out of left field. It would follow the tradition of Shakespearean comedies where, toward the end of the play when love is in the air, uncommon and unexpected couples form. That sort of treatment would have worked better in this case, rather than thrusting another pair on us when our wonder and concern remain fixed on Adam and Eve.
Those who believe this topic and relationship are too taboo for the theater will quickly alter their view at the top of the show. The play is not so much about God and His species, as much as it is a glimpse into the sentiment behind the story. You begin to buy into, in a way you've probably never considered before, the fact that the first couple may have from similar setbacks and difficulties that we face today in the pursuit of purity and ecstasy. So while theatergoers will obviously recognize the overarching story and most of the twists and turns (though admittedly some are surprising), the show still manages to keep you guessing how the most famous duo in history's story really ends.
Ed Note: the original version of this article left out mention of David Howard, the lyricist.