By Annette Hinkle
Though most people wouldn’t admit it, there’s something both primal and liberating about being a voyeur. Watching events unfold as an unseen (or unacknowledged) witness to someone else’s life can be highly entertaining and educational — particularly if it offers lessons that can be incorporated into your own.
There’s a performance going on right now at LTV Studios in Wainscott that just might challenge everything you thought you ever knew about theater — and it gives you a chance to be an observer in the most intriguing sense of the word.
The production is “Eve” and it’s presented by Kate Mueth’s theatrical dance troupe Neopolitical Cowgirls. This is the same group that brought “Zima,” the allegorical scavenger hunt, to Sag Harbor for the last two HarborFrosts.
Unlike “Zima,” however, Eve tells a very specific story of creation through a series of rooms where various parts of the wordless script are played out. That means, in order to grasp the meaning of the story — which is told entirely through movement, music and vocalizations, the audience must travel from room to room to piece together what is happening.
What you get out of the performance is largely dependent upon where you choose to be, physically, during certain points in the evening. That makes “Eve” an entirely different kind of performance — one that puts the audience squarely in the driver’s seat.
The unique nature of the show is evident upon check in where guests are given a feathered mask and invited to enjoy a drink in the company of others in the lounge area.
But when the play begins, the rules are laid out — all audience members must wear their masks at all times to ensure anonymity and there is to be no talking. Guests are, however, permitted to roam freely and visit any room they wish at any time. At first, they explore the space, tentatively, unsure of where it will go and what it all means.
But then, the music cues the action and the real story begins to unfold.
Yes, it’s all very Kubrick a la “Eyes Wide Shut,” and there’s something that feels both satisfying and somewhat taboo in being there without a defined role of your own. Mueth, who wrote and directs “Eve,” is a big fan of breaking down the fourth wall in her performances and “Eve” does that with great success — to the point where a sense of empowerment develops as you begin to boldly barge into scenes and follow actors. You also plot out strategy for the evening and watch it unfold as a silent observer peaking around doorframes or glued to walls as the performers, seemingly oblivious to your presence (unless you happen to be in their way) go through their actions.
Lydia Franco-Hodges (and alternately, Josh Gladstone) play the Maker, a mad scientist of sorts who brings life to (or possibly resurrects) a girl (Ana Nieto) lying on a gurney in a operating room. The girl, Eve comes to life and assumes the stance of a creature adjusting to a new world.
Three siren-like nymphs attend the “newborn” bathing and comforting – and then, the real world intrudes, specifically in the form of Man (J. Stephen Brantley). The primal dance of Eve begins with the suspicion, anger and fear that any creature — specifically a female —would feel in the presence of a larger and more aggressive unknown.
But soon the two settle into a romantic life together. Then they notice the Tree of Knowledge in the corner which is loaded with temptations and trappings of modern life. The first of which is the apron Man selects for Eve, while he chooses a newspaper for himself.
The simple props are loaded with symbolism and cleverly lay out the steps that lead to Eve (and Man’s) eventual fall. In this case, it is not the apple, but the shiny and bright objects that society has come to define as that which we should all desire — including shopping bags from high end retailers. It’s an apt metaphor for the greed, materialism and expectations of female beauty that lead one astray. And it offers a new and intriguing twist on the creation myth, which has far more fuel beneath it than most of us have probably ever considered.
Though Eve and Man’s first happy moments are lived in the romantic company of one another in the kitchen and then, the bedroom, Man soon puts on a tie, picks up his burdensome briefcase and trudges out the door to what awaits him in the professional world.
Eve, meanwhile, moves to the nursery where she engages in fantasies over what might fill the empty cradle. Those who follow Man, however, will find he is engaging in a different kind of fantasy with a different kind of forbidden fruit — a temptress named Lilith who soon seduces him.
The action then moves into more modern realms — cosmetic surgery for poor Eve who gets breast implants, thick lips and high heeled pumps and is soon rocking it out at the club with all sorts of debauchery and drugs. That’s where another Lilith seduces her.
The various pressures exerted upon Eve become evident as her Maker, Man and Lilith all seek to bend her to their will. And though “Eve” is in some ways the story of Adam and Eve, this is really a woman’s story — all women’s story. Adam is present, but he’s not the leading role and doesn’t really have a name. And that’s what makes this creationist myth particularly appealing (along with the pop culture references throughout — including Frankenstein … or perhaps more accurately Rocky Horror Picture Show).
Pierson alum Hannah Cook has cleverly conceived and executed the rooms that function as the stages of Eve’s existence. There’s a lot of detail to study throughout the evening — including the kitchen set which evokes an idyllic 1950s existence, despite the silverware that dangles precariously (and rather menacingly) from the ceiling. The nursery, meanwhile, is decorated by a wall of tiny baby clothes on the wall and a mobile over the crib has some rather suggestive figures hanging from it.
“Eve” is challenging theater and if you like sitting safely in your seat segregated from the action by that fourth wall, this may not be the show for you.
If, however, you are ready to be challenged, don’t mind having actors slither at your feet or squeeze past you in a crowded hallway, or even bark orders at you if you are impeding their progress, this just might be up your alley. And if you go more than once, chances are you will get much more from the tale on the second go around.
What more could a voyeur ask for?
The cast of “Eve” also includes Irina Thompson and Homa Hynes as Lilith and Chorus members Kasia Klimiuk, Margaret Pulkingham and Thompson. Shadow people are played by Jael Baker and Hynes and Guardians are Tina Mills and Mike Sincora.
The show runs through August 4 at LTV Studios, 75 Industrial Road, Wainscott. The production is suggested for ages 18 and up, though younger viewers may attend with parental supervision. Times are at 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 1 (a fundraiser for Bay Street Theatre), Friday and Saturday, August 2 and 3 at 9 p.m. and Sunday, August 4 at 8 p.m. For tickets ($35 online) visit www.npcowgirls.org. Tickets are $40 at the door