Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea
nytheatre.com review by Naomi McDougall Graham
August 10, 2013
A scene from Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea
Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea is an outstandingly beautiful, smart, funny, profound, and heartbreaking play. Even in the FringeNYC, where you have 183 choices, go see this play. You won’t regret it.
Plan-B Theatre Company brings us this play after a sold-out run in Salt Lake City last winter. The Adam and Steve in question are the only characters in the play and spend the 70 minutes alone on stage with a single wooden bench as the only set piece. With nothing further, they tell a compelling, deeply moving story. I was riveted.
Adam and Steve are high school seniors and lifelong best friends who are peeking over that scary precipice into adulthood and discovering the men they will grow up to be. Steve is coming to terms with realization that he’s gay. Adam, raised as an indifferent Mormon, is realizing that he may actually believe in God…and all that stuff.
The play you expect with that set-up is trite and preachy. The play you get is neither of those things. This one is a brilliantly written, textured exploration of intricate, anything-but-straightforward characters. It’s about the pain of growing up and realizing that the world is more complicated than you thought it was. About realizing that two best boyhood buddies might become men who can’t really be friends.
Matthew Greene’s script is, by turns, laugh-out-loud funny (there are one-liners that will make every writer in the audience turn green with envy) and, ultimately devastating as this friendship that you fall so quickly in love with struggles to endure.
Topher Rasmussen (as Adam) and Logan Tarantino (as Steve) are wonderful; with quiet performances as complex as the writing. They play these characters with such endearing honesty that I rooted for them always, even as I watched each of them be right and each of them be wrong.
Jerry Rapier directs the piece with the simplicity and focus it deserves, allowing us to just ride with the characters on their journey.
I did have some reservations about Greene's resolution of the play, it hit some trite notes that were smartly avoided the rest of the time, but, ultimately, it doesn't matter. This is one of the smartest and most up-to-date portrayals of a modern “coming out” story I’ve seen. Steve’s coming out is, if anything, less of a big deal than Adam’s decision to commit to Mormonism. But the play wins because, while it reveals both subjects with a gentle, thorough touch, it isn’t ultimately “about” either of them. It’s about a deeper truth, one that every audience member will relate to: the confusion, pain, and bittersweet glory of leaving childhood behind and becoming who you will be.