Tuesday, June 25, 2024

If You Ask Me: Adam & Eve Underwhelms at Legacy Theatre 

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Legacy Theatre, Branford
Now Through June 16th

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

David Birney’s clever adaptation of the Mark Twain story, The Diaries of Adam & Eve, is being given a competent but rarely compelling production at the Legacy Theater. The jewel box theatre on the water is an ideal location for this lovely little play, which remains sadly underwhelming in Branford.

In Twain’s story he introduces the first couple as questioning beings or “experiments” who don’t exactly experience love at first sight. Eve (Mariah Sage) is obviously in take-charge mode in Eden blithely naming any and all creatures she comes across. When challenged by Adam (Rod Brogan) as to why she names a bird a Dodo, her reply is immensely practical: “Because it looks like a Dodo.” This turns out to be Eve’s go-to response which frustrates Adam even as he finds himself growing closer to her with definite mixed emotions. It’s interesting to note that way back when Twain put the woman in the power position, a writer certainly way ahead of his time.

The unpretentious and often humorous play that David Birney adapts from Twain is a breezy delight that manages to also be bittersweet and moving without being cloying. The play demands two charismatic and enthusiastic actors to play these iconic roles; however, while both Sage and Brogan are fine actors, they are at least a decade too old for the roles and never truly connect onstage as the first couple. The roles beg for a youthful excitement, the joy of discovery, the “newness” of everything. Both actors instead seem settled into Eden, an old married couple that fail to generate many sparks.

At Legacy the MVP is often scenic and lighting designer Jamie Burnett whose designs for previous shows at the theatre were often the best element of the production. For The Diaries of Adam & Eve, however, it appears he was given an unlimited budget to crowd the intimate stage with an overflowing Garden of Eden of fauna and flora. The design is way over the top when a simpler approach would have been more effective. As it is, the design basically smothers its inhabitants.  There’s barely enough space for the actors to navigate the stage forcing them to escape into the audience area for several awkwardly staged scenes.

Burnett’s dramatic lighting fares better but, on a whole, this is a production where taking everything into account, less would have definitely been more.

 “The Diaries of Adam & Eve” continues at the Legacy Theatre, 128 Thimble Island Road, Branford, Connecticut through June 16th. For further information, call (203) 315-1901 or visit www.legacytheatrect.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

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