AMV’s about page is very upfront about the inbred nature of the current Mormon-arts community, but this post seems to require a direct reminder of the fact.
The new online miniseries Adam & Eve is written and directed by Davey and Bianca Morrison Dillard. They were both early joiners of New Play Project, which began life as “mere” student works, yet gained acclaim, gathering words like renaissance and breakthrough and baby-this-is-the-future. It didn’t hurt that established playwrights like Eric Samuelsen and Melissa Leilani Larsen, and Mahonri Stewart were seduced by all this young blood and provided additional work for them to produce. No doubt, NPP, while it lasted, was a marvelous thing, and everyone involved deserves fond memories of their own and long memories of ourn.
My intimacy with NPP began with Davey approached me about publishing a collection of NPP work. I had a couple stipulations but was largely hands off, and the thing came out almost six years ago now, if you can believe it. Among the short plays included in the collections was Davey’s “Adam & Eve.” It was his first attempt at playwriting. One of his better NPP plays. And, apparently, has not unclutched him ever since as it appears now in serial film form as “Adam & Eve.”
I’ve never seen Davey’s work LIVE as in on a stage with an audience, etc. But I have seen his film work. For instance, BYUtv’s Eugenie which, best I can tell, is not online, but Davey wrote it and it too starred him and Eve, Becca Ingram.
Glass’s execution of Davey’s script captures the most consistent features of his work: a heightened artificiality. On stage, this is to be expected. That the original Adam and Eve featured a man and woman in regular dress on a bare stage is just what theatre is these last hundredish years. Yet to have Adam and Eve chatting during their first hours in the lone and dreary world while in contemporary dress on film is . . . peculiar. It’s just not done. It’s bringing the vernacular of theatre into the world of film.
This heightened artificiality can be a source of beauty—or, rather, a conduit to beauty, a way of getting to beauty that attempts to cut out the middleman, as it were—but it also risks feeling fake. Davey’s facial acting is a good example of this. Almost every expression following a pause has been telegraphed. We see an actor waiting for the right moment to act, rather than just acting. In a post-method world, this might be called failure, but realism is a pretty modern idea and arguably overrated. At any rate, Davey does not act like other actors you’ve seen on screen. His costar swings between these extremes of method and artificial, which may be an artifact of the script and direction, or may be an intentional representation of Eve’s greater recognition that their new life is a mess of danger and absurdity, consequence and nonsense.
The sound design also swings from natural and simple acoustic instruments to—if you’re paying attention—the ridiculous. For instance, the largish splash sounds that come when Eve throws daisy petals into a stream. They’re cartoony and, frankly, pretty funny.
Adam & Eve‘s natural, wilderness setting is striking. The film finds ways to make the mountains small and intimate with closeups of mud and sticks, while remaining vast. This is an untouched world, and the choice to make Adam and Eve genuinely tiny at times—much smaller than usual for a film that places its leads in a vast wilderness—emphasizes how alone and reliant upon each other they are, even when Eve pushes away. No matter how much Adam might comply in leaving her alone, he will still be the nearest person in the world. The only person in the world.
As if, in some real way, they are incidental to Creation. Now separated from God, lonely and afraid, they are simply small.
Although Adam and Eve have left paradise and must now, presumably, sweat for their bread, Adam & Eve doesn’t show such physical struggles. In fact, their lack of struggle is one of the sources of comedy, as their discovery and investigation of a coconut:
I’ve only watched the combined version (Adam & Eve was initially released serially). Considering the entire season cut together does not last half an hour, the sense of vastness created is impressive.
A valid question at the end of season one is how far can this conceit be carried. It’s already longer than Davey’s original play, and while it hasn’t overstayed its welcome yet, I do wonder what comes next.
I was talking to Tyler Chadwick once about the even-more-than-you-might-expect-for-an-Abrahamic-religion number of Adam and Eve poems Mormons produce. I’ve made my own fair share. One such themed short story (scroll to page 38) I’ve flirted with turning into a novel. (And if anyone wants to offer me a year’s wages to do so, I’m up for the challenge), but the comedy of Adam and Eve as worldly neophytes can only run so far. Adam & Eve offers hints of how they might develop and grow, but the real question as the story moves onward is: How do you leave the pleasures of their newness behind while maintaining what made them worth writing about in the first place? What does that balance look like when the first act has ended?