Originally published in the LA Stage Times
If you’re familiar with the biblical story of Adam and Eve, you know that Eve’s got a lot of blame resting on her shoulders. She did eat the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, after all, supposedly causing the fall of mankind and the beginning of pain and suffering.
But what if Eve realized that she got the raw end of the deal? What if she decided she wasn’t going to be blamed for man’s fall from grace and changed the end of her story — so eating from the Tree of Knowledge actually turned out to be a pretty good thing?
These are the questions posed by eve2, a feminist re-imagining of Genesis in which Adam and Eve are modern-day workers at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital morgue. After a blackout stops time and space, they realize that they have become the titular biblical figures, giving Eve a chance to transform her dreary ending. The surreal, dream-like play opens Saturday at L.A.’s Bootleg Theater.
Writer Susan Rubin is a blogger and documentary filmmaker for Ms. Magazine and a playwright with credits including Bitch (2007) and Above the Line(2010), also at Bootleg. She teams with director Mark Bringelson, who staged the two aforementioned plays and was known in the ’80s and ’90s for his collaborations with Mimi Seton such as Wazo Wazoand Blue Corridor.
Despite eve2’s religious inspiration, there’s no need to brush up on your childhood Bible study classes — in an hour-and-a-half-long discussion in a dimly-lit room at Bootleg, Rubin and Bringelson make it clear that all that’s required of audiences is a (very) open mind.
Bringing Eve back to life
eve2 began in 2003, when a massive blackout shut down power in New York City for several days. Rubin, a former political activist with wild curly hair, wasn’t in New York, but she says she began to think about what it’d be like to be in a hospital during that time — specifically, the Bellevue Hospital morgue, a sight she often saw as a child growing up in Greenwich Village. From there, she imagined a black hole which stopped time and space for those in its path, and she wondered — what if time and space had stopped during the blackout?
Her work as a feminist blogger and documentarian (she’s explored topics such as abortion, rape and the reasons why she’ll never wear a stiletto shoe) inspired her to bring the story of Adam and Eve — a “very difficult story for women,” she says — into the blacked-out, time-stopped hospital.
What most disturbs her is the idea that in many parts of the world, women are not encouraged to learn and seek knowledge — partly a result of myths such as Adam and Eve. “Someone asked me, ‘what do you think is the most direct example of this?’ And I said the Taliban. You try to go to school, and they throw acid in your face. It doesn’t get more clear than that…It’s very core in my mind to what’s wrong, and it’s the only answer I could come up with for how to solve it. We have a right to change mythology. We have a right to say that’s not how it really was.”
About four years ago, the idea for eve2 began to take shape; then “about an hour” later, Rubin brought it to Bringelson. She had fallen in love with his direction of Blue Corridor at the Odyssey in 1993. Rubin was then writing political cabarets for the Indecent Exposure Theater Company(founded with her now-husband Charlie Degelman at the Los Angeles Theatre Center during the Bill Bushnell years of the late 1980’s). Since then, Rubin and Bringelson have worked as a pair of opposites — Rubin writing plays with themes of social justice, and Bringelson adding his own artistic twist.
When Rubin told him her ideas for eve2, it was Bringelson who suggested making it less straightforward (he says an early version was a traditional piece about health care) and more surreal.
“Susan has this amazing past that is just immersed in all this funky culture, and her take on all of that culture has always been a very interesting thing to me,” says Bringelson, who’s just dropped by before a tech rehearsal. He’s a thoughtful speaker, and it’s clear how much respect he and Rubin have for each other. “I wanted dreams of hers in this world [ofeve2] because I just felt the more this world could resonate with Susan’s unconscious, the more intriguing and the more magnetic it would be for the audience.”
He’s right about Rubin’s past — when she was a child, her father sheltered Beat artists such as Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs in his Greenwich Village apartment, and her mother occasionally encouraged her to sing for Paul Robeson, a personal friend. The play got a healthy dose of surrealism with the addition of several of Rubin’s recurring childhood dreams, and special effects like floating caskets, a “garden of Eden” portrayed through lighting designs and projections of lines from Genesis on the stage floor.
The audience of about 90 will sit in a three-quarters arrangement (not quite in the round, but almost) around a rock ‘n roll stage and a spiral staircase leading from a trapdoor up to a metal-grated catwalk. Alan E. Muraoka designed the set.
The four-person cast, which includes Rubin’s goddaughter Rebecca Rivera as Eve, workshopped the play for years to help keep its dreamlike qualities from becoming too confusing. Rubin says the rehearsal process was far from easy — finding enough rehearsal space was difficult, and Rivera almost had to drop out just weeks before opening night.
A journey of learning
But when eve2 opens on Saturday, it’ll signal the reunion of Rubin and Degelman. Though they founded IETC together in 1988, Degelman left the company to become a novelist and Bringelson eventually took over. eve2, an IETC and Bootleg co-production, is the first play Rubin and Degelman have worked on together — Rubin says he was instrumental in helping configure the complicated set.
In fact, eve2 represents the end of a long trajectory of learning, Rubin says — she’s not a trained playwright, and throughout the IETC’s history, she’s been perfecting the ability to create a “well-made” play. Now, though, eve2 is her first foray into writing a play that will affect people on a subliminal, rather than intellectual, level.
She admits that she doesn’t quite know what audiences will think of eve2, but she hopes that people come out with questions — about human nature, women’s place in the world and the stories they’ve likely never truly questioned.
“My ultimate [goal] is if people walked out and said, ‘Is she saying that if we had knowledge, the world would be a better place?’ If they could then say, ‘Why are women blamed for this, why is Eve blamed for this? Adam didn’t do anything to help,’” Rubin says. “Mostly I hope they’ll say, ‘Is that really what the story is that we’ve been told, and should we really live by that story?’”
eve2, Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., LA 90057. Opens Saturday. Thu-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 2 pm. Through September 8. Tickets: $20 bootlegtheater.org. 213-389-3856.