By Annette Hinkle
A couple years ago, East End audiences were introduced to a uniquely immersive theater experience titled “Eve.” Conceived and directed by East Hampton’s Kate Mueth, founder of Neo-Political Cowgirls, “Eve” merges music, art and dance in a voyeuristically wordless theatrical piece that takes place in a series of different rooms. In “Eve,” as the performers engage in an imaginative and mobile retelling of the creation myth, masked audience members are free to silently explore the various rooms — their choices of where to go and when ultimately determines how they perceive the story.
“It’s mildly esoteric, weird, funny, very sexy, magical, odd and wild,” says Ms. Mueth in describing the show. “It’s an imaginary world where anything can happen.”
In the summer of 2012 and 2013, “Eve” was performed at Wainscott’s LTV Studios where it was well received and word soon spread. Now “Eve” is moving west — to New York City where it is currently enjoying a multi-week Off-Broadway run at The Gym, a performance space in Judson Memorial Church near Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.
“Judson Memorial Church is very progressive, and very vocal,” explains Ms. Mueth. “They are fundamentally activists for social justice.”
As the venue’s name implies, the space is literally a gym which the church has regularly turned over to cutting edge and experimental theater groups for decades.
“What’s exciting about this space is that in the 1960s, dance and theater people were using it to make Avant-garde, challenging and progressive art,” explains Ms. Mueth. “These artists often had problems with the government not liking their work, so the staff and leaders at Judson said come make your art here.”
Given the title and subject matter, “Eve,” which opened at The Gym on September 8, may seem like an ironically cozy fit for a space owned by a church. But be forewarned —though it uses a biblical text as its basis, “Eve” doesn’t stay there for long.
The show opens with a mad-scientist named the Maker creating Eve, a perfect woman. Soon she meets man and the two settle down in idyllic domestic bliss. But before long, the temptations of the modern world intrude in ways that tempt both man and woman and threaten to tear apart their relationship and society.
“I’m drawing from the mythical. It’s the story of creation, but it’s totally not a bible story,” explains Ms. Mueth. “It’s about examining women in today’s world and is really an overarching journey of the idea of being human — how we struggle and lose focus toward our own free will and how we can build it up.”
For Ms. Mueth, one of the biggest challenges of bringing “Eve” to The Gym was getting it to work in a 3,000 square foot space, which is half of what was available during the LTV runs.
“Because ours is an immersive show, in addition to the gym, we have hallways, closets, dressing rooms and alternative spaces to use as part of the show,” she explains. “We’re shrink wrapping a very big piece and it’s tricky.”
“I had to get my head into a real space of faux positivity about that aspect,” she adds. “I like to work bigger and bigger, but the universe was saying, ‘See how you can tell this story in a different way.’”
That different way included the creation of five small rooms within the gym itself through the use of temporary walls. Ms. Mueth notes that the nature of the tight spaces and the free-range experience of “Eve” requires that both the performers and audience members check their egos at the door and instead let the piece take them where it will.
“As a theater artist, my job is to help the human experience broaden, widen and evolve so that we leave different than we came,” she explains. “This experience invites that. Bringing new performers and outside people into this world can be hard because there’s no script. It’s music and movement driven and can be frustrating, but those bits of ego have to fall away.”
“We have given the audience permission to go wherever they want. It’s an incredible freedom,” adds Ms. Mueth. “Some go from one room to the next very quickly. It’s very visual and voyeuristic in a sense. We’re not there to determine where the audience goes or force them to go in one place. So if 20 people are in one room and no more can fit, that forces them to go elsewhere.”
“For me it’s very interesting. Life isn’t simple. Sometimes we prefer the safety of sitting in a chair and watching,” she notes. “But how much more interesting is it to watch yourself when you can’t see something or be alone in a room with a performer?
“There’s self discovery,” adds Ms. Mueth, “as well as discovery of the story line of the play.”
“Eve” at The Gym at Judson (243 Thompson Street, New York) runs through October 1, 2015 with eight shows weekly. Performances are Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m. with a 10 p.m. show on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Tickets are $35 and available online at npceve.brownpapertickets.com. On Sunday night, college students are admitted for $20.
In addition to “Eve,” a fundraiser for the Neo-Political Cowgirls will be held at Stephen Talkhouse (161 Main Street, Amagansett) on Thursday, September 17, 2015 from 8 to 10 p.m. Nancy Atlas will perform, and the evening will include an auction of wild and wonderful Neo-Political Cowgirls headdresses, as well as silent auction packages. Tickets are $25 and available at stephentalkhouse.com.