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TMCNet:  Review - 'Adam and Eve' is more like a reading than a play

[January 17, 2013]

Review - 'Adam and Eve' is more like a reading than a play

Jan 17, 2013 (Star-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Reading Mark Twain can be pretty great. But having Mark Twain read to you by others Well, it all just depends, doesn't it It's a device that proves problematic in "The Diary of Adam and Eve," the latest dinner theater production to be staged at TheatreNOW. The show attempts to run the gamut from humor to poignance in retelling the Biblical story of creation from the points of view of the first man, Adam (played by Anthony Lawson, who also adapted Twain's work for the stage), and the first woman, Eve (Susan Auten).

Despite some instances in which Twain's language sings -- he is Mark Twain, after all -- the production is hampered by having its actors read their parts, something that necessarily takes away from their ability to act them. It takes a very good reader to entertain for long stretches, and while Lawson and Auten certainly have their moments, tediousness occasionally sets in.

Still, adapting Twain's satirical "diaries" for the stage is a good idea. Certainly David Birney thought so; he did it more than 20 years ago with "Mark Twain's The Diaries of Adam and Eve." I've neither read nor seen Birney's adaptation, so I don't know how Lawson's compares, but he generally captures the spirit of Twain's material.

Twain has lots of fun with the naivete of these first humans while also capturing some of the basic temperamental differences between men and women that bedevil us to this day. Eve is portrayed as a constantly talking, pretentious annoyance. Adam is a bit dense, and thinks his own child is a fish, "an enigma or some kind of bug." He wants to perform experiments on it.

While having fun at the expense of Adam and Eve, however, Twain also acknowledges the pain that comes when they first discover death and the mellowing that occurs over the course of their very long-term relationship.

The script's transition from comedy to something deeper feels abrupt, however, even if some scenes are funny and others moving. This is where being encumbered by having to read their lines hurts the actors the most.

At least there are some attractive projections used to set the scene (lush forest for the Garden of Eden, arid desert after they're expelled) and some cute costume choices (Lawson wears a T-shirt that says "naked").

For the remainder of its six-show run, the parts of Adam and Eve will be played by a different real-life couple each weekend. (Lawson and Auten, who aren't a real-life couple, are the one exception.) This is a potentially fun gimmick that worked for Big Dawg Productions when they staged "Love Letters" two years ago. "Love Letters," however, is one of the few plays written well enough to stands up as reader's theater, and I'm not sure "The Diary of Adam and Eve" meets that standard.

On the other hand, this is dinner theater and there's good food, which takes the edge off some of the more disappointing aspects of what's happening on stage. The "New Year's Resolution Course" of vegetable consomme with pasta pearls and fresh herbs wasn't very flavorful. But the "Garden of Eden Main Course" -- chicken breast "en papillote" (in paper) with garden vegetables and new potatoes -- was savory and awesome. The "Temptation Course" of passion fruit panna cotta with apple (get it apple ) caramel sauce was a creamy slice of heaven. There's also a menu of Eden-themed cocktails if you're tempted.

On the whole, "The Diary of Adam and Eve" doesn't add to the experience of reading Twain's work for yourself. That makes it a tough show to recommend.

John Staton: 343-2343 Twitter: @Statonator ___ (c)2013 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.) Visit the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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