It’s not easy playing Adam and Eve. The Earth’s first couple is as flawed as they are handsome. There’s nudity, seduction, sinfulness and guilt. The roles require charm and physical fitness, fearlessness of snakes and, in the case of Mark Twain’s version of the story, humor and wit.
In short, it’s a lot of responsibility.
Enter the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s Sam Osheroff and Kris Danford, cast as Adam and Eve, respectively, in playwright James Still’s two-person play “Searching for Eden: The Diaries of Adam & Eve.”
Unlike other actors who’ve been cast out of Still’s adaptation of Twain’s Eden, Osheroff and Danford are married in real life. They met in 2004 when Danford was in her first year at Florida State University’s Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training and Osheroff was in his third.
Osheroff, a New York City-based actor with Joseph Fiennes looks and a Humphrey Bogart voice, remembers the first time he laid eyes on Danford.
“She had this movie-star quality to her,” Osheroff says. “There was a perfectness, a little glow about her.”
Not surprisingly, Danford, a perfect Eve with her strawberry-blond corkscrew curls and slate blue eyes, echoes her husband’s sentiments with similar affection.
“I thought he was cute, obviously,” Danford says. “And he is very funny — one of the most genuinely funny people I know.”
Osheroff and Danford’s courtship was obvious even to their Sarasota sponsors, Warren Coville and Len Gumley, both of whom attended the actors’ summer nuptials last year in Western New York.
“We watched their love grow,” says Coville, Danford’s former sponsor and an Asolo Rep board member. “I remember Sam told me something like he took one look at Kris and knew she was the gal he wanted to marry.”
Twain’s droll spin on the fabled meeting of Adam and Eve is less saccharine. Penned in 1893, “Extracts from Adam’s Diary,” is a daily journal through the eyes of a complacent and disinterested Adam. When Eve arrives, Adam is more annoyed by her presence than swept away by it.
In Twain’s companion piece, “Eve’s Diary,” penned 12 years after the death of his beloved wife, Livy Langdon, his penchant for sarcasm is no less biting, and his insight into the female psyche no less honest. Eve’s voice is also a rare treat, given the stable of male narrators found in Twain’s work.
“When it comes to the battle of the sexes, the author of ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ has nothing on Twain,” says director Melissa Kievman. “These diaries are a terrific read, achingly funny and all too insightful into the differences between men and women.”
Divided into two parts, “Searching for Eden” opens against the backdrop of a dense jungle that both Osheroff and Danford describe as “a playground for adults.” Designed by Scott Bradley and Bruce Ostler, the Garden of Eden has six levels and includes a waterfall, canopy tree, wading pool and room for a prop tiger and elephant to roam.
The second half of the play is decidedly less dreamy as audiences are confronted with Still’s middle-aged version of Adam and Eve thousands of years later, after they’ve been tossed out of Eden and plotted out their lives in modern society — Eve as a high-powered movie producer and Adam as a therapist.
“It’s really about how relationships develop over time,” says Danford. “It shows how people try to keep things fresh and how we all sort of try to find our way back to that initial spark.”
For Danford and Osheroff, the roles couldn’t have come at a better time. Only a year-and-a-half into their marriage, both actors admit that they’ve spent more time apart than together. Danford, now in her fourth season as a guest artist at the Asolo Rep, spent six months last year in Sarasota onstage with the Asolo Rep. Last summer, after the season wrapped and she was back at her apartment in Harlem, N.Y., Osheroff landed the lead role in the Banyan Theatre Company’s “Fat Pig.”
“Now we’re together all the time,” Osheroff says. “Although it’s doesn’t seem like it because we’re so focused on the work. It’s intense. We’ll spend eight hours a day rehearsing and when we come home it’s like, ‘Hey I haven’t seen you all day.’”
Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected]
DID YOU KNOW?
• Kris Danford starred as Cinderella in the Asolo Rep’s 2006 production of “The Plexiglass Slipper.”
• Sam Osheroff and Danford’s first date was at The Blasé Cafe & Martini Bar, on Siesta Key.
• The 1988 movie “The Diaries of Adam & Eve” stars ex-husband and wife David Birney and Meredith Baxter.
• There are no nude scenes in “Eden.” Instead, Osheroff and Danford will wear flesh-colored costumes.
• According to Osheroff, rehearsals for the play have been grueling. The script calls for a lot of climbing and running.
• Osheroff and Danford will also play Cathy and Jamie in “The Last Five Years,” running Jan. 21 to Feb. 28, at the Asolo Rep.
• Osheroff is a New York City tour guide and has also appeared on “Law & Order.”
IF YOU GO
“Searching for Eden: The Diaries of Adam & Eve” runs Dec. 18 through Feb. 25, at the Asolo Repertory Theatre. For tickets, call 351-8000 or visit www.asolo.org.