It's difficult to be tempted. One so often gives in to whatever the temptation is. Such was the case with Eve, the (kind of) first woman, when the serpent questioned her about eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge. Of course, it's also difficult to be cast aside by a lover for another, as was the case with Lilith, sometimes thought to be the first wife to Adam. And as they say, hell hath no fury as a woman scorned, and so Lilith, in her rage, transformed into a serpent to tempt Eve and thus bring about the fall of man. Of course, that's not quite the version of the fall of man presented in Genesis. Company XIV, a dance-theater company heavily inspired by Baroque dance, drew from several sources to create their Le Serpent Rouge, including Jean Cocteau's Le Bel Indifferent, poems by Charles Bukowski, and the Bible. Their version of the temptation and the fall is as sensuous, spectacular, and rococo as it can get, with a shiny pressed tin backdrop, a whip wielding, thigh-high boot-clad Ring Mistress narrating events, a large chandelier that doubles as the tree of knowledge, and a fog machine. Lilith, that first, soulless partner to Adam, wears only a few delicately placed sequins while Adam and Eve wear leaves and dangle from gilt trapeze bars.
As it is a piece of dance-theater, the story is told primarily through movement, with the Ring Mistress providing most of the narration. Adam and Eve (John Beasant III and Laura Careless) dance their first dance together as silhouettes in a foggy prelapsarian haze. The Ring Mistress snaps her whip and there is a sharp change in the lights, the sound, the entire experience, as Lilith borrows the costume of the serpent in order to tempt Eve.
What follows as part of the temptation is a walk-through of the Seven Deadly Sins, beginning with vanity. A large gilt-framed mirror is wheeled onstage. Eve is dressed in a baroque-style gown and given a wig topped with a sailboat. Olivera Gajic's costumes are ornate and lush even when they are practically non-existent. The vanity section ends with Lilith pulling the strings of Eve's corset so tight that she screams. And so it is with the fall: it introduced new, previously unfound joy, as well as pain and sorrow. As the Ring Mistress says, after the sins have all been accounted for: "to choose knowledge is to choose to live. . . to fall is to know the intricacies of life’s deepest joys and sorrows."
Le Serpent Rouge almost threatens to be too long. There is a brief second act, separated from the first by an entre-act performance of Eartha Kitt's " A Woman Wouldn’t Be a Woman" by a drag queen. The second act serves as a quick summation and almost feels tacked on to the piece, a quick little bow to tie everything up.
Company XIV has done an excellent job in bringing the first story to life. Le Serpent Rouge is an exciting and unique blend of contemporary and classical versions of the fall of man, done in the way only Company XIV can.