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Falling for Eve

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

Falling for Eve
Jose Llana, Sasha Sloan, and Krystal Joy Brown.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In the beginning of Falling for Eve, God creates the Heavens and the Earth — and, eh, it’s okay. But this new musical being presented by the York Theatre Company at its Theatre at St. Peter’s, is never more than that. Bookwriter Joe DiPietro, composer Bret Simmons, and lyricist David Howard have attempted to adapt Howard’s 2001 play Adam Alone into a whimsically melodic little retelling of the Creation that won’t offend anyone — including nonreligious types. But in so doing, they ensure the show won’t excite or move anyone, either.

It’s an odd trade-off, and one that — at not-so-isolated instances — seems more like a theatrical 401(k) plan than a yarn yearning to be spun again. For rather than telling one of history’s most famous stories in the traditional way, the writers posit what might have happened in the earliest pages of the Book of Genesis had Adam not eaten the apple. Well, uh, until later, that is. Sorry if that’s a spoiler, but since humanity sort of depends on things unfolding that way, it’s kind of unavoidable.

Falling for Eve’s apparent annoyance with conventional attitudes and its staunch reliance on well-hewn narratives are what make it so perplexing an evening. One would imagine a musical that wants to recast (Jose Llana) as existence’s first Abercrombie & Fitch model (he’s portrayed as so hot, he makes angels swoon), Eve (Krystal Joy Brown) as the victor rather than the victim when she discovers that sin is a whole lot better than purity, and God as both a man (Adam Kantor) and woman (Sasha Sloan) with such a fiery vindictive streak he induces his angels (Jennifer Blood and Nehal Joshi) to pretend to be tempting snakes would feel open to being more adventurous.

Everything about this musical, however, is safer in today’s climate than the Garden before the Tree of Knowledge. The opening number (“God, It’s Good to Be Me”) is sung by Him as a nightclub specialty act, with the light He lets there be apparently the neon emanating from Vegas. There’s a song about how boring paradise is. And, of course, once Eve sinks her teeth into an imperfect future and is banished, there are the requisite numbers in which Eve, Adam, and even God (both of them) each doubt themselves, as though no plot development serves any particular purpose beyond checking off items on a BMI Workshop to-do list.

Not every treatment of every story needs to be groundbreaking, of course, even those from the Bible that have been related countless times. But when a specific subject has been given two other major musicalizations, a bit more vivifying originality would not hurt. Despite spirited direction by Larry Raben and game “musical staging” by Lee Martino, this show feels utterly unexceptional compared to “The Diary of Adam and Eve” (the absurdly affecting and hilarious first chapter of Bock and Harnick’s 1966 musical The Apple Tree) and Stephen Schwartz’s epic Children of Eden, both of which tweak their subject matter with considerably more panache.

Those interpretations also allow more room for performers’ individual expression, whereas this one seems designed for the charisma-challenged actors so commonly populating musicals today. The only chance anyone has to truly shine is Eve’s “Where Will I Sleep Tonight?”, which Brown delivers with searing aplomb, even if it uneasily resembles Montego Glover’s showstopper “Colored Woman” in DiPietro’s currently running Tony winner, Memphis. The other actors look and sound fine, but can make no lasting impression in their blasé roles.

To the extent that anything is a star, it’s Simmons’s music, which artfully blends ageless romanticism with contemporary pop in strains that feel far more familiar than they sound. Howard’s lyrics and DiPietro’s book are serviceable, but lack the emotional or comic highs and lows that should be elemental to Adam and Eve’s invention of feeling. Beowulf Boritt’s unit set and Bobby Pearce’s costumes are nondescriptly attractive, though Boritt’s representation of the Heavens pays distracting homage to the CBS logo.

But in terms of recalling other things, nothing quite beats God’s “Good Things Are A Comin’,” an almost satirically inclusive list song that rattles off to Adam and Eve all the things their descendants will miss if they don’t follow the Divine plan for everything. Nearly everything mentioned is unique, an inimitable result of inspiration, dedication, and craft. It’s impossible to listen to that song without contemplating how you’re not getting any of the same qualities from Falling for Eve.


Falling for Eve
Through August 8
York Theatre Company at The Theatre at Saint Peter's — Citigroup Center, 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street
Running Time: 95 minutes with no intermission.
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: York Theatre Company