Man, woman, hot tub
Searching for Eden
Sacramento, CA 95814
Searching for Eden is a two-act romantic comedy, with the first half nominally rooted in the Book of Genesis, as reconsidered in Mark Twain’s irreverent “diaries” (allegedly penned by Adam and Eve, and published by Twain in 1904-05), which put a “battle of the sexes” spin on the story. Twain served as inspiration—or at least the talking point—for contemporary playwright James Still. (And if you’re gonna borrow, why not borrow from the best?)
Naturally, this comic reappropriation of venerable material involves biblical imagery, including the requisite apple. But the first half of this play actually owes more to the black-and-white 1930s Hollywood versions of Tarzan and featuring Jane. Statuesque Jason Kuykendall (wearing a loincloth, just like Johnny Weissmuller) plays the self-sufficient nature boy absorbed in his solitary enjoyment of a gloriously simple life. Slender, long-limbed Lyndsy Kail plays the talkative woman who arrives in his world and starts applying names, rules and moral preferences to everything, even as she becomes attached to his crude but charming ways.
It’s an old, proven formula: The trailer for Weissmuller’s first Tarzan film in 1932 featured a beaming modern Jane with her hand on Tarzan’s expansive bare chest, with the splashy line, “Many women would delight in living like Eve … if they found the right Adam!”
Just as Weissmuller’s Tarzan films dealt in innuendo through co-ed swim scenes (typically ditching most of Jane’s garments), Searching for Eden swiftly morphs from the Bible into the modern hot-tub comedy. There’s an inviting spa placed squarely at the center of the stage, providing aquatic opportunities for physical comedy whenever ongoing dialogue between Adam and Eve approaches a dead end, as it periodically does.
The play’s second act (the creation of modern playwright Still) moves things to the present day, where the trim but slightly-middle-aged Adam (wearing reading glasses, working as a counselor advising modern couples under strain) and Eve (a mid-level Hollywood decision maker of a certain age, reading flawed screenplays by hopelessly immature 20-ish writers) attempt a brief getaway to the modern remnants of the garden where they once met. Their conversation is frequently interrupted by cellphone calls. They worry about their kids (more Old Testament). They try to get romantic. They have trouble unwinding. They eventually slide into the hot tub (innuendo redux; some things never change). Playwright Still works up to a few last Twain quotations, then the lights go down.
The central conceit notwithstanding, this one breaks little new ground. It opens the suggestion that something more intellectually inventive is going on, but settles for familiar content regarding middle-aged life (which, alas, can be all too close to the truth). It’s pleasantly entertaining, for sure; the B Street Theatre knows how to hit this sweet spot, and does so better—and more frequently—than any company in town. The show is also smoothly performed, and smartly directed by Buck Busfield, and that counts for a lot. But audiences sincerely looking for something more dramatically substantial and modern are referred to the B Street Theatre’s worthy B3 series (in the smaller space nearby), and the series offered over at Capital Stage.
The costumes are uncredited. We’re talking swimsuits and towels, after all.