Eve Review: The latest “dance theater immersion” and no-sneeze “experience,” at Gym at Judson

Eve 3a by Tom Kochie

I will keep an open mind, I write three times in my notebook before the first scene in the first room of “Eve,” which its creators describe as “a dance theatre immersion experience.” It’s running at the Gym at Judson through October 1.

I have learned to be wary of any show that calls itself an “experience,” especially a theatrical experience, thanks to shows like Queen of the Night.

On the other hand, I do still like Jimi Hendrix, and I’m drawn to the Neo-Political Cowgirls, or at least the name. That’s the Hamptons-based company, founded by Kate Mueth seven years ago, that is responsible for “Eve.”

So I waited with the other theatergoers in the hallway of the Gym at Judson, which in honor of the show has been newly decorated with plastic female torsos on the wall, each covered with unique graffiti; one says “I’m glad I run the path to fruition” with the “fruition” cleverly ending at the plastic vulva.

A member of the company gives us each a choice of mask to put on, and tells us we are required to keep the mask on for the duration of “Eve.”

I’m horrified.

I will not sneeze, I write. The last show that required me to wear a mask was “Sleep No More,” the site-specific, immersive, interactive, mute adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I was apparently allergic to the mask, because I kept on sneezing, and the sweat quickly formed on my face beneath the mask, and I really, really needed to rip off the mask and get the hell out of the place. But it was dark and confusing and the ushers, or whatever they were called – Guards? Minders? Noblemen? – weren’t allowed to talk, so it took me 20 minutes to find the exit – literally 20 minutes. The entire experience – “experience”? – made me feel like the least hip person on the island of Manhattan.

EVE8a by Tom KochieI will not sneeze, and I will stay to the very end.

“Eve” begins in a room wrapped in red cloth. A dancer sits atop scaffolding in the middle of the room. She has long straight black hair and is dressed all in black. She writhes elegantly to the loud, pounding music, until she takes out a bird cage. Three dancers wearing gossamer outfits flutter into the room. Eventually the first dancer joins them. Meanwhile, on the scaffolding, something huge encased in brown wrapping paper starts writhing, then jumping up and down, up and down, until it eventually…hatches. A crazy-looking bearded man emerges, wearing a doctor’s white lab coat stained in blood, and a surgeon’s light attached to his forehead.

This first scene has taken about 20 minutes, and now the doctor leads us into a second, much smaller room, where an unconscious woman with her private parts clad in what looks like duct tape lies on what appears to be an operating table. The doctor smears silver body paint on her, and bops her with a mallet, and apparently drags her into life. Standing in the corner of the room, looking somewhat catatonic, or perhaps just cool, is a man dressed only in Calvin Klein underpants. Suddenly, it all comes together – the show is called “Eve,” that must be the newly conscious woman, the man in the underwear is Adam…and the blood stained doctor must be….God?

Later, this diagnosis seems to be confirmed, when Adam and Eve pick an apple from a tree hanging with boxes of Dunkin Donuts and old Vanity Fair magazines, and then go to the kitchen (which has a quite credible looking modern stove and refrigerator) and set up house, chopping the apple, and reading the New York Times at the kitchen table.

“Eve” then is a site-specific, immersive, interactive, mute adaptation of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve?

Except it doesn’t stop there. Over the course of two hours, the nine members of the cast — impressively lithe and committed — dance and otherwise move and interact and emote in some 10 or 11 makeshift rooms constructed for the show. Eve (whom we learn later is portrayed by Ana Nieto) goes through any number of metamorphoses, at one point getting new breasts and lip implants, and a pair of high heels that seem to defeat her. A cocktail waitress brings her a tray of medications. Adam (whom we learn later is just “Man” and is portrayed by Sebastiani Romagnolo, a veteran of “Sleep No More”!) puts on a suit over his Calvin Kleins (presumably Armani) and goes to a room with a desk and starts typing. They both eventually liberate themselves. All this takes place to a soundtrack that leans heavily on the art rock group Dead Can Dance, Nine Inch Nails and Grace Jones,  but also occasionally the sound of crickets.

Often visually arresting, as these photographs attest, at points tedious, “Eve” is rewarding for those who have the patience and the innate hipness to appreciate it.   I know this because I stayed for the entire experience, without once sneezing.

Gym at Judson
Conceived/Directed/Original choreography by Kate Mueth
Choreographed by Vanessa Walters
Cast: Ana Nieto (Eve), Lydia Franco Hodges/Josh Gladstone (The Maker), Brinda Dixit, Vanessa Walters, Jennifer Sydor (Chorus), Sebastiania Romagnolo (Man), Emi Oshima (Shadow), Leslie Cuyjet (Lilith), Brinda Dixit, Kasia Klimiuk, Vincent Cinque (Host/Hostess), Margaret Pulkingham, Kasia Klimiuk, Irina Thompson, David Wornovitzky (Voids)
Note: This is the E Cast, which is the cast I saw. There is also an M cast. At the M cast, for example, Julia Motyka portrays Eve and Jeffrey Lyon portrays Man
Running time: 2 hours, no intermission
Tickets: $35
“Eve” is scheduled to run through October 1, 2015

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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