Review: Fresno Pacific offers a different spin on the original couple in Mark Tyler Miller’s ‘The Adam Bomb’
Talk about a guilt trip. The main character in Mark Tyler Miller’s tuneful and thoughtful new one-man, original musical, “The Adam Bomb,” is weighed down by a transgression that makes anyone else’s flaws look puny. How would you feel if you were responsible for allowing sin into paradise? It’s no wonder that Adam, the “original man,” is separated from Eve, swigging booze from a brown paper bag, and living in squalor. He gets to feel guilty not only about screwing up his life but the lives of the billions of his descendants to follow. Let’s say it all together now: Thanks, Adam.
It’s an intriguing premise but one that could quickly fall flat with the wrong tone. Thankfully, Miller — a professional musical-theater actor and the new theater-program director at Fresno Pacific University — and director Emily Wold find a winning balance between humor, pathos and a non-heavy-handed dose of spirituality in this appealing work. Displaying deft technique while playing three characters (including a guy named Tim, who is Eve’s new boyfriend), sometimes all together in rapid conversation, Miller brings a solid acting presence and a strong singing voice to the improvised campus stage. (The production, with one more performance, 2 p.m. Sunday, April 28, is held in the North Hall Seminary Chapel, which has been admirably transformed by Shannon Brewington into a post-paradise space strewn with garbage. The result is far more effective than you’d expect, budget-wise.) His songs, self-accompanied on acoustic guitar, range from plaintive to anguished and angry (I found myself hoping for a couple more musical numbers, in fact), and the sometimes weird and creepy lighting design helps set a mysterious feel.
There are times when Adam’s chatty angst wears a little thin. We get it, he’s bitter. And I would like there to be just a little more context in the script about this modern, Bluetooth-infused world we suddenly find ourselves in. (Then again, I’d need to brush up on my Old Testament to answer such questions as: Where did Cain and Abel find their wives?) But what impresses me most about Miller’s work and Wold’s direction is the way the piece acknowledges doubt as well as faith, yet also finds a way to celebrate a hope for humanity. We’re all stuck with the guilt, I guess you could say. The important thing is how to keep on living.