It's back to that famous Garden with the Asolo Rep's Searching for Eden.
By Kay Kipling
When Venice Theatre presented a production of The Apple Tree earlier this season, it was a refreshing reminder of the piece that inspired it, Mark Twain’s humorous, touching The Diaries of Adam & Eve. Now comes yet another, frequently enchanting look at that primal couple, with James Still’s Searching for Eden on the Asolo Rep mainstage.
The curtain opens on a set that approximates a child’s view of the Garden of Eden: a big, center stage tree overflowing with ripe apples, cardboard cutouts of a lion and a tiger, well-deployed greenery and mountains in the background, etc. That’s appropriate since our Adam (Sam Osheroff) and Eve (Kris Danford; the pair happens to be married in real life) are children, for better or worse. Neither one has any previous experience to draw on in forming a relationship to the world around them or to each other, and it’s not surprising that their road to connection is a rocky one.
Sam Osheroff and Kris Danford in the Asolo Rep's Searching for Eden.
Adam, typical male, prefers to be alone, laid-back and not bothered with a talkative partner; Eve, typical female, is lively and upbeat and needs to have someone to talk over her discoveries with. She’s especially good at coming up with new words for previously undefined things, a trait that drives Adam wild but is very entertaining as we see Danford test driving new sounds until she comes up with just the right one. Well, usually the right one; she calls the spectacular moon that hangs over the set “moo” because that’s what a cow said to her when asked what it was.
When we first see Eve she’s splashing about in a small onstage pool, and she and Adam are wearing flesh-colored costumes to resemble nudity. As we know they will, the pair gradually, tentatively, forms a bond; and it’s fun to watch the spirit and energy with which Osheroff and Danford approach their roles and each other. One also appreciates Melissa Kievman’s intuitively right direction here.
Act II is Still’s invention, placing the couple in middle age 2,000 years later on a vacation getaway at the resort (named “E”) that has replaced the Garden of Eden from which they were cast out after that fatal apple incident. Now, the duo finds themselves working too hard at their careers and on their cell phones to find time for each other; will they be able to recapture the intimacy that kept them together during their long exile?
While this setup allows for some interesting possibilities, Act II doesn’t necessarily fulfill them all. We’re glad to see these two find some happiness, but not exactly sure how they got there. And issues are raised (take the whole Cain and Abel thing, for example) that are dealt with too quickly and unsatisfactorily. The very last scene is also abrupt, though it still has impact.
But Osheroff and Danford are so engaging, and the questions they ask of themselves at the beginning—“Who am I?” “Where am I?” “Where do I fit in?”—so timeless and true, that most audiences will find Searching for Eden, by and large, a delight. It continues in rotating rep through Feb. 25; call 351-8000 or go to asolo.org.