In the beginning, there was the Caffe Cino. This legendary place was the birthplace of both Off-Off-Broadway and American gay theater. The key playwright in both events was Doric Wilson (now the general director & founder of TOSOS II, the city’s most vibrant gay theatre troupe).
His very first play to be produced, AND HE MADE A HER opened to great acclaim at the Cino (named for proprietor Joe Cino) in 1961, where it, in the words of playwright Robert Patrick, “helped establish the Cino as a venue for new plays, and materially contributed to the then-emerging concept of Off-Off Broadway.”
AND HE MADE A HER is receiving its first New York Revival in over 40 years, in a very entertaining TOSOS II production briskly directed by the company’s artistic director Mark Finley. It is an “Adam and Eve” play, taking a highly satirical view of humanity’s first couple.
Many, many plays and musicals have been written about this duo, most of them beyond dreadful. AND HE MADE A HER is easily the best play on the subject I’ve ever seen, largely because of the subtle feminism of Wilson’s Eve (deftly underplayed by Jamie Heinlein), and the gay sensibility of two oh so fey angels. My husband astutely remarked that it’s vastly better than the first act of the recently revived APPLE TREE, also a dramatization of the first few chapters of Genesis.
That said, AND HE MADE A HER is clearly the work of a very young playwright—not as probing or funny as, say, Wilson’s excellent Stonewall drama STREET THEATER—but an intelligent young playwright with abundant wit and a distinctive point of view on subjects ranging from philosophy to warmongering. It’s also very much of its time, featuring “an angel of conservative cant” named Disenchantralista (Roberto Cambeiro, hitting just the right note of gimlet-eyed resentment) who could have easily walked out of one of Samuel Beckett’s absurdist masterpieces.
Doric has commented that this is one of his least gay plays (it is mostly about the original heteros, after all). What gayness it possesses comes mostly from the two fey angels mentioned above: Disenchantralista’s opposite number Urhelancia (Nick Matthews), “an angel of liberal enthusiasm” and Silvadorf (Chris Weikel). Matthews gives Urhelancia the feel of playfully excitable queer activist, while Weikel’s Silvadorf is the very soul of mid-century gay New York supper club sophistication.
Matt Rashid has the most difficult job, playing “straight man” Adam in the midst of this swirling vortex of eccentric spirits—and he carries it well. All in all, this little bit of theater history is well worth repeating.