Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Love's First Thing"

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"Love's First Thing"

by Tim Blevins
Directed by Melissa Dawn Shaw

Set Design by Tom Novack
Lighting Design by Bob Dolan, Veronica Gonzalez, Melissa Shaw
Costume Designed by Beth Volpy
Sound Design by Joe Francazio
Original Music Composed by John Weed
Stage Manager Janna O'Brien

Adam.......................David F. Egan
God...........................James Angelo
Tassmodeus........Randal Milholland
Eve............................Megan Jones

Boston is a cold, audience-indifferent, critically hostile, lonely place to do theater, and yet eager young companies keep springing up every month. This month it's The Closet Thespians, hoping to "encourage, support, and perform original works of independent theater." Their play, "Love's First Thing" is a comedy with bite by award-winning Tim Blevins that retells Genesis as a love story --- between God and Eve.

There's no one in the Garden as the play opens but a distant, bored, self-admiring God, a densely dumb and totally physical Adam and a cautiously questioning, lickspittle serpent. Adam's idea of fun is bashing the serpent's head (or his own) against rocks, and when told to name everything he names everything the only name he knows --- Adam. So if the Garden is blissfully perfect, it's not going anywhere. Perhaps this is why God feels bored and unfulfilled.

It's hard for David F. Egan to play such total stupidity convincingly, and easy for Megan Jones to play an Eve that is his exact, vibrantly articulate and aware opposite. In a sense, the writing forces all the actors into narrow boxes. Randal Milholland's Tassmodeus the serpent can use only his face and an armless body swathed in tight bright green to articulate his guarded doubts about the perfection of God's creation. Even James Angelo's God stands upright and alone in an isolating spotlight quietly and abstractly admitting he is unfulfilled.

What God wants is simply to be loved, and the play takes fire late in act one when he commands Eve to have a dinner date with him, and realizes that to mean anything, love has to be a free-will gift, so act two is about that single apple of reason, and Eve's wilful decision to share it (and sex of course) with Adam --- instead of God.

One of the advantages for Producer/Director Melissa Shaw in her commitment to original plays is that the author is available for consultation and advice about intentions. The advantage for Tim Blevins and other playwrights is watching a company wrestle with all the possible means of expressing those intentions. It seemed to me that the heavy-handed and repetitious humor early in the play may have been the result of starting with the need of God for love, and then going into overlong detail in trying to establish why that late scene becomes necessary. If several audiences seem to agree, perhaps cutting and compression would be a benefit in any rewrite.

The play begins with Adam trying again and again to use a trampoline to leap over a tall white wall. The metaphor of sheer physical joy resulting repeatedly in a fall is absurdly interesting, but never connected to anything that follows. Its physical fun is no preparation for the more intellectual fun to follow.

But those are the risks and opportunities involved in hoping to "encourage, support, and perform original works of independent theater." And that's why eager young companies keep springing up every month.


"Love's First Thing" (till 29 July)
Actors' Workshop, 40 Tremont Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide