Back to the Garden
nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
August 14, 2011
Back to the Garden by Albi Gorn is your classic Adam and Eve story. Kind of: Gorn certainly adds some twists to the tale we're familiar with.
Adam and Eve live in a garden where life is perfect. They are naïve, guileless and innocent. Satan poses as a snake and tempts Eve to eat the apple from the tree of knowledge. Apparently God is very generous, except when it comes to his creation’s ability to self-determine, and think critically. Eve takes a bite of the apple, thus casting Adam and herself into a life of pain, toil, and anguish. Not to mention the agony of childbirth. Seems God has no sense of humor. God has control over the heavens and the earth, and all the beasts that dwell upon it. Except for Satan. Which by any reasonable definition makes God only 99 percent omnipresent, thus revealing a serious flaw in his master plan. It would appear, according to Gorn, that Adam and Eve were created for no other purpose than to worship and adore their creator 24/7. Another character flaw, God is insecure and needy for attention. God has also placed on this earth those who question his existence, and those who commit foul and cruel acts. God did not do a very good job with his creations. Perhaps because he only had 7 days to work, and on day one everything had to be created in the dark. Adam and Eve are pulled apart and spend the rest of the play trying to find each other and rediscover the innocence they lost. That’s the idea of Gorn’s retelling, and it’s a good one.
However, Gorn’s universe seems more focused on babies and piety than it does on telling the story of innocence lost and the corrupt forces ready to lure a soul away from it’s own goodness. The play, written with a modern sensibility, seems to borrow from Mel Brooks’s History of the World, and Arthur Miller’s Creation of the World and Other Business. One-liners are flung and, as flying one-liners will do, some hit their mark and some do not. Some are very funny and some are just groaners.
Robin Anne Joseph directs the play and does a good job keeping the action flowing. The Connelly is a big theatre and she uses the entire space well.
As Adam and Eve, Brandon Haagenson and Allyson Morgan do a great job creating the naïve and stumbling young lovers. Each provokes a sense of innocence and has adorable childlike qualities. As the Serpent, Leo Goodman is charged with delivering many of the one liners. He is a sleazy serpent and comes across like a carnival hustler. As God, Barbara Drum Sullivan is stern, but fair. She plays God as fallible and it works.
Gorn is trying for a borscht-belt kind of humor with Back to The Garden, but it doesn’t quite deliver. At two hours and thirty minutes, the play makes it’s point, over and over, and the shtick starts to wear a bit thin after 90 minutes.