Playwright Susan Rubin experiments with the surreal in eve2, an avant-garde one-act that left me scratching my head in bewilderment.

12975_571198636272219_1025902201_n For Rubin’s latest, scenic designer Alan E. Muraoka has transformed the Bootleg Theater into a near empty loft, its customary seating covered in plastic and replaced by a single row of folding chairs surrounding three sides of the vast playing area, the design suggesting from the get-go that eve2 will not be set in any sort of literal reality. A metal spiral staircase leads up to a catwalk running atop the now hidden seats, a pair of large oblong plastic boxes lying on opposite corners of the room, a rectangular opening at floor level leading down below.

We first spot hospital technician Adam (Hunter Seagroves) and nurse Eve (Rebecca Rivera) up on the catwalk rehearsing a scene from Romeo And Juliet, apparently on a break from work. A fire alarm sounds, accompanied by an order to evacuate the hospital, but Adam suggests heading down into the morgue where he and Eve can continue re-enacting R&J’s single star-crossed night together.

Adam then launches into the first of eve2’s many mystifying monologs, this one describing a nightmare aboard ship. By the time Adam’s tale has reached dream’s end, he and Eve have descended the spiral staircase and entered the morgue, so turned on by each other that they can no longer resist their carnal urges. “Do you feel how hot it’s getting in here?” Eve asks. “Oh yeah” responds Adam. The hospital goes dark.

1176350_575637629161653_133127898_n Flashlight in hand, Adam tells Eve not to worry, that the generator will soon kick in, though regardless of whether it does or not, he recommends heading on over to his place to finish the lovemaking unfortunately interrupted by the sudden power failure.

Before they can make their getaway, however, a body bag begins writhing atop one of the oblong boxes and who should emerge from it but a leather-jacketed Mo (Nicholas Cutro), who begins recounting his last memory, of floating in a very small boat on a glassy black river where, to his dismay, he became aware of a leopard strolling along the river’s edge until spotting a gazelle … “and then it was too late. The thing was screaming and the smell of blood filled the sweet river air.”

A curious Eve asks if Mo had seen the killing, or more specifically if he had watched, but before Mo can respond, a second body bag opens and out wriggles Tina (Lizzie Peet), a tough blonde with an attitude—and a warning that they are all in grave danger from “crazy people out there who want to kill us.”

Eve stubbornly insists that she and Adam stay and look around, and though Adam reminds her that the sun will soon be rising “with a fresh blast of heat, and then we’ll be as brain fried as they are,” Eve convinces him to join her in a search of the hospital.

The two lovers arrive in an administrative office where Eve opens a random cabinet and begins pulling out files, each of which reads “death from natural causes.” “‘Natural causes.’ ‘Natural causes,’” Eve reads in growing confusion. “This can’t be real. Something is wrong.”

1005796_573078946084188_805605828_n Voices are heard from outside the office, warning Adam and Eve that their search has not gone unnoticed. Eve grabs an armload of the files and heads out despite Adam’s efforts to stop her. “I have to figure this out,” Eve insists.

Meanwhile down below, Mo and Tina are taking swigs from a whiskey bottle as Tina launches into a tale that has Mo believing she’s telling him “in cryptic code” that she is the Princess Anastasia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas of Russia, and when Mo reminds her that he isn’t “responsible for every fucking killing that ever happened,” Tina suggests that “there may be some pills we can find for you right here somewhere. Maybe a nice anti-psychotic.”

If the above description of eve2’s early scenes leaves you more than a bit mystified, I wish I could say that what follows makes it any clearer.

Three-time Scenie-winning director Mark Bringelson is Rubin’s creative collaborator once again, as he was with her previous Bitch and the Scenie-winning Above The Line, though I wonder if any director could make eve2 clearer than it appears in synopsis.

1174800_576606545731428_231877213_n Performances range from good to excellent. Rivera and Seagroves do their best with their characters’ often stilted dialog. Cutro and Peet are downright mesmerizing in the play’s more colorful roles.

In addition to Muraoka’s strikingly original set, eve2 benefits from Brandon Baruch’s stunning lighting design and Christopher Moscatiello’s electrifying sound design. Courtney Tallman’s costumes are winners as well. Corwin Evans’ projections of eve2’s scene titles onto the floor are stylish albeit hard to read if like this reviewer you are seated on the side. Licia Perea is choreographer.

Heavy theatrical haze fills the Bootleg throughout eve2’s 80-minute running time, to the extent that sensitive patrons might complain of difficulty breathing, particularly since no warning appears to be posted in the theater lobby.

eve2 is produced by Charles Degelman for Indecent Exposure Theater and Jessica Hanna for Bootleg Theater. Michael F. Venegas is stage manager.

About Rubin’s Above The Line, I wrote, “I loved every fly-on-the-Hollywood-wall moment of it.” While I appreciate the playwright’s daring in attempting something completely different this time round, eve2 had this reviewer in a muddle from start to finish.

Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles. Through September 8. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7;30. Sundays at 2:00. Reservations:

–Steven Stanley
August 15, 2013
Photos: CK

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