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When Adam Met Steve

Creation Story Spoof Entertaining But Lacking Substance

Mike Coleman, Elizabeth Boskey, and Marsha O'Neill Jenkins

By Brennen Jensen | Posted 8/22/2001

Take Two

Rich Espey

Take Two, the final entry in this year's Baltimore Playwrights Festival, produced by the Director's Choice Theater Company at Arena Players, is a dramatic work sprung from a protest sign. You've probably seen the placard in question. Most anytime a reactionary religious group demonstrates against "eee-vile homosexuals" one of the protesters inevitably wields a sign reading, it was adam and eve, not adam and steve! Rich Espey, a busy local actor taking his first turn as playwright, calls their bluff; his dramatic take on creationist canon, in fact, includes lovers Adam and Steve. A gem of an idea, this--turning a bit of homophobic rhetoric on its head (albeit one playwright Paul Rudnick already used for his comedy The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told). Alas, Espey doesn't quite know what to do with his brash brainchild. So, like many neophyte theater scribes, he does too much. His amorphous, overburdened work, directed by Maria Lakkala, teeters uneasily between salacious farce and numbing, all-right-already didacticism.

Things begin straightforwardly enough, with an Eden-dwelling Adam (Mike Coleman) busily naming the animals and chatting with God (Ben Prestbuy--at first only an avuncular, disembodied voice, eventually appearing on stage in one of Tom Wolfe's white suits). Adam is bored, so God gives him Eve (Elizabeth Boskey) and tells him to mimic the beasts and multiply. An eager Adam explains it to new-on-earth Eve this way: "Tab A goes into Slot B." Then along comes the Serpent (Marsha O'Neill Jenkins, her face inexplicably made up like she has a bad sunburn), the forbidden fruit is eaten, and the first couple are booted from Paradise into a life of toil.

Time passes. The pair's sons (Cain and Abel, natch) grow up and leave the nest, and Adam gets bored again. He shuns Eve to stare at his own reflection in a pond, ruminating on the whole "multiply" thing as, er, "new urges" overtake him. (Hmm . . . Adam's homosexual desires arising from what can be taken as selfish narcissism seem to play right into the Religious Right's gay-is-a-choice camp.) Anyway, enter Steve (Anthony Scimonelli) from the next garden over. He's also one of God's mud-into-man creations, but one who ate the forbidden fruit before he ever got his Slot B helpmate. He hooks up with Adam and spends the rest of the play trying to convince him it's OK to be gay.

Espey is at his best when he's just having fun with his Dawn of Man rewrite. Though his Anita Bryant reference is a little dated, he does come up with a few Rudnick-worthy one-liners. ("I hear Sodom is nice," Steve says to Adam, while dreaming of the loft apartment they might share there.) While some pop-culture playfulness works, the Serpent's turn as a gay-bashing preacher is jarring. She delivers the bracing-more-than-funny line: "Get thee behind me, faggot . . . but don't get any ideas."

Steve's message to Adam--and the play's message to the audience--can be summarized as: a) an omnipotent God created everything, including homosexuality, and b) the Bible is chock full of so many wacky/wretched concepts that interpreting certain passages as prohibiting homosexuality is a fool's game. Unfortunately, Steve's speechifying on these themes is windy and heavy-handed. (You half expect him to say, "If you cut me, do I not bleed?) Meanwhile, an increasingly shrill Eve becomes a budding scientist who, among other things, discovers DNA. Even within the freedom of farce, this is a little too much.

Performances are generally earnest, with the most charismatic stage presence being Kevin André Crenshaw as Ken, Steve's roller-skating boy toy from around the way. (Curious thing about Espey's concept of the early earth: While it's crawling with more gay men than a window-dressers convention, there's nary a mention that some women might prefer Slot B over Tab A; roller skates had been invented . . . perhaps softball is still in the offing?)

Bounding clumsily between silliness and the soapbox, the two-hour Take Two eventually wearies its watchers. By the time Adam delivers the climactic line, "Yes, Eve, I'm really going to live with Steve," it elicits, not laughter, but groans.

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