And then God Created Steve . . .The Spark of Creation at the NoHo Arts Center
REVIEW: ADAM & EVE AND STEVE
By RYAN M. LUÉVANO
With an abundance of new black box musicals sprouting up all over Los Angeles, attending one of these productions is certainly a shot in the dark. You never know if what you’re about to see is brilliant or lousy—of course that’s also part of the fun. When it comes to Adam & Eve and Steve presented in a 48-seat theatre in the NoHo Arts Center what you get is a show that’s unpredictably entertaining. This musical farce tells the story of Adam and Eve with an added twist—God accentidely created Steve too, the world’s first gay man. The 80-minute musical explores the how these three first humans learn to love and find their true purpose in the grand scheme of the universe; all while the Devil and God constantly bicker with each other further complicating the lives of the three children of Eden.
First-time producer Scott E. Lambert rises to the occasion bringing together a stellar cast and production team that work together to put on a show that can’t help but delight. Even in such a tiny space all elements of the production appropriately tell the story and take the audience beyond the black box and into the Garden of Eden around 10,000 BC. Shows like this one prove that fancy sets, extravagant costumes, elaborate light plans, and 30-piece orchestras are often superfluous, as all you need to tell a story is a good foundation of theater’s essential elements. And with two set pieces, simple lights, short shorts covered in leaves, and a one-man band Adam & Eve and Steve have more than enough to regale an audience.
The three leads carry the show, as their individual performances are not only technically proficient but also dramatically satisfying. The show’s Adam (Michael Spaziani) is honest, humble and dewy-eyed until the very end. Spaziani’s high tenor voice matches the songs provided for his character beautifully as he performed them with purpose and ease. Eve (Kelley Dorney) is strong and determined, once she discovers what she wants, she’s on the hunt taking the audience along for the ride. Her vocal dexterity shines. She exhibits a classical bright voice in “Who Am I?”, “Marriage Is,” then a fuller belt in “I’m Electric” and “Home Life”. Of the three, the odd man out steals the show. From the moment Steve (Jotape Lockwood) enters the stage uttering his first words, “Where am I?” the audience is hooked. Lockwood’s performance is bursting with hilarious physical comedy as he plays the overtly gay Steve. What’s further intriguing is that he offers more than surface level histrionics as he also shows us the serious side of Steve in songs like “What is Love?,” “Home Life,” and “I Found Me.”
Creating a new musical work is no easy task, it’s a relentless labor of love or it will surely fail. For creators Chandler Warren, book and lyrics; and Wayne Moore, music, Adam & Eve and Steve is clearly a labor of love as the writers put so much of themselves into their show, so much so that it might be one of the show’s biggest liabilities. Even with a comedic musical farce like this one, the drama must be at the forefront leaving the jokes and clever musical theater references to take a back seat. As is, the musical is overly seasoned with this type of humor. Often these references are only funny to a select few leaving the rest of the audience in the dark wondering, “What’s so funny?”
Another book issue is that the motivation of the Devil is unclear. We know that Adam is lost in the wilderness craving the companionship of someone to guide him, Eve, is looking to fulfill her purpose, Steve learns that the hardest part of love is letting go while searching for his true purpose, and God is in pursuit of excellence sticking to his plan for creating mankind. Aside from interfering, the Devil’s motivation is dubious at best.
The music of the show is well written and enjoyable. The songs for the most part are in styles fitting of the characters and moments where they occur. However, musical theater clichés often run rampant cheapening some of the sentimentality. The songs “Me,” “Working it Out,” and “Song and Dance Man” although fun, are superfluous songs that distract from the drama. Why start the show with “Me” the Devil singing about how the show is about him? Songs that stand out as musical gems are “With You,” “I’m Electric,” and “I Found Me,” as their dramatic placement and fusion of music and lyrics here is fantastic.
WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC DIRECTOR?
Music director and composer Wayne Moore plays the piano beautifully in this production. He clearly knows the show with pinpoint precision. I only wish he wasn’t hidden behind a wall the whole time—with small shows like this one seeing the musicians perform adds to the excitement.
The timing of this musical with the recent legalization of same-sex marriage couldn’t be more perfect. Adam and Eve & Steve is a dramatic champion of marriage equality—it’s the ritual of ancient theater at its finest. A piece that is so perfectly of the NOW it begs the question: Will it stand the test of time? Come to Theatre 68 at the NoHo Arts Center to witness what happens “In the beginning.” For more information and tickets visit Plays411.