What if Eve got really sick of being blamed for human mortality, pain during childbirth, snakes slithering along on their bellies and just about every other affliction in life? What if Eve figured out that she had been wrongly blamed and vilified?
In Genesis, we’re told that G-d tells Eve not to eat from the Tree of Wisdom and Knowledge and she does it anyway. Strike One, and she was out! But what if Eve could change the end of the story? What if Adam stood by her side and together they said, “No fair, we made a mistake, but you are G-d so why can’t you forgive let us move on?”
Thousands of Talmudic scholars and everyday folks have deconstructed the Eve and Adam myth and said lots about it. But I am a playwright, so I began to think about a dramatic rendering of The First Couple. I realized I needed to know more if I wanted to reframe them in a theatrical way. I read quite a bit, and along the way I discovered Lilith, Adam’s first wife.
Lilith wanted to be treated as Adam’s equal, going so far as to ask Adam if she could sometimes be on top when they had sex. This really pissed him off. So he went to G-d and said he could no longer be Lilith’s husband, demanding a new wife. G-d acquiesced, banished Lilith from the Garden of Eden and demonized her.
If Adam was on good enough terms with G-d to demand a new wife, why couldn’t he plead with G-d to give his new wife, Eve, a second chance?
The idea that Eve, as symbol for all women, should not seek as much wisdom and knowledge as she could ingest seems particularly crazy today, when wisdom and knowledge would likely put a stop to some of the more atrocious things happening to women: domestic violence, early child marriage, “corrective rape,” and the list goes on way too long.
A plot for the play popped into my head when I remembered a 2003 blackout in New York City so widespread that hospital generators overloaded and some medical centers almost closed their doors. I began to envision a modern Eve and Adam stuck as workers in a morgue at Bellevue Hospital when the power went out.
From there, I imagined what could happen if the blackout had been caused by a collision of Time and Space. I posited that if they did collide, all sorts of new things would be possible. And if so, why couldn’t Eve, protagonist of one of the world’s most powerful myths— and one of the worst for women—decide to change the end of her story? The play poured out of me as a surreal take on Genesis.
In theater, you make statements through the action of the characters, so I let Eve once again seek Wisdom and Knowledge. Once again she gets punished, this time by flying morgue slabs and a nightmarish series of events—including the arrival of Avenging Angels and Moses (as agents of G-D) to scare Eve into giving up on re-telling her story with a happy ending. But, of course, in the play I had the power to make sure things ended differently than they do in the Bible.
I’ve accepted that I cannot personally make Time and Space collide, but I can raise the possibility that if we change the mythology we’ve been taught, we can change the world. That’s the genesis of my play, eve2, which runs from August 10 through September 8 at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles. See you in the Garden!
For more on Lilith, check out this book.
Image of Otto Mueller’s 1918 painting of Adam and Eve from Wikimedia Commons