Adam & Evie
Reviewed by Paul Birchall
Through April 30
Love is madness, just as it is unique and self-contained. The way you fall in love with your beloved will be different from the way Joe Shmoe across the way falls in love. Playwright Charles L. Mee understands this, and so does his interpreter, director Frederique Michel, evidenced in this sweet, if tepidly involving production which strives to depict the nature and essence of romantic attachment.
The problem is that Mee’s scattershot and flamboyantly impressionistic interpretation conjures the intellectual nature of chemistry and affection without exploring their emotional aspects. Oh yes, the piece is full of quirky little vignettes filled with whimsy and humor. Characters frequently burst into tap dances, a man with a chicken head prances back and forth, and an opera singer warbles bits from Mozart’s The Magic Flute – but the overall sense is of people expressing love and not really capturing what the sentiment actually is. The dialogue is intentionally disjointed, distancing us from the feelings the lines are supposed to communicate. It is ironic that, for this sort of theme, a big dumb old romantic comedy, with a straightforward, spoon-fed plot, might have worked better to convey the idea of love than this abstract confusing spectacle.
In one early scene, a young man named Adam (Landon Beatty) introduces himself to a lovely young lady named Evie (Lindsay Plake). Across the stage, an old couple in similar clothes (Tom Laskey and Sandy Mansson) look on indulgently. They seem to be the same couple, still in love, just many decades on. There are other couples who come on and off as well, some from literature: Romeo (David Frank) woos Juliet (Kat Johnston) on her balcony, and in a scene from A Doll’s House, Nora (Megan Kim) bickers with her husband Torvald (Bo Roberts). Inclusively, there’s a young gay man (Jeffrey Gardner) who expresses his affection for an older man (Roberts), and a young lesbian (Kim) tries to win an older woman (Yukiko Hadena).
Frederique Michel strives to craft a mood that’s romantic and intimate, but the atmosphere is flat overall, and disappointingly inert rather than charismatic. The ensemble frequently gathers around microphones to sing sweet and ragged renditions of Cole Porter songs (whose witty lyrics frankly contain far more longing and desire than we see on the stage), as well as occasionally engage in rather choppy tap dance numbers. The effect, though, is less moving and intimate than it is halting and stilted. We can’t evade a sense that there’s not much chemistry on display, and the show’s dawdling pace lacks urgency.
Performances are surprisingly stiff and awkward. As a sweet skeptical sweetheart, Plake is one of the few performers to bring depth and dimension to the otherwise thin character Mee has sketched for her. Gardner and Roberts are appealing as unconventional romantic partners. But for the most part, the show feels less about love and more about a writer indulgently opining on abstruse philosophical concepts, with no action attached.
City Garage, building T1, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through April 30. (310) 453-9939 or http://citygarage.org. Running time: 90 mins with no intermission.