Skip to main content Skip to footer
Dynamic Duo

Robbie Simpson and Marina Shay Talk Bringing Adam & Eve to Life in Off-Broadway’s Paradise Lost

February 14th, 2020 by

Share
Robbie Simpson and Marina Shay Talk Bringing Adam & Eve t...

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Paradise Lost—John Milton’s epic poem about good and evil and man’s banishment from the garden—arrives off-Broadway with a modern 100-minute retelling by playwright Tom Dulack. The powerful, beautifully-designed Fellowship for Performing Arts production runs at Theatre Row through March 1, and co-stars Robbie Simpson and Marina Shay as Adam and Eve.


BroadwayBox recently caught up with the dynamic duo to talk about bringing the universal themes Paradise Lost to a modern audience, creating Adam and Eve for the stage, and how their friendship makes their performances richer.


What was your reaction the first time you read the show?

Robbie:
I loved it! I was intrigued with how epic and well known the story is but so impressed with how our playwright, Tom, was able to make the story feel so universal and easily accessible to today's audiences. Tom’s language makes the story just as relevant today as it has ever been.

Marina:
I was immediately attracted to Eve, her unquenchable curiosity, striking honesty, almost accidental humor, and perceptive brilliance. She has this rare combination of having boatloads of knowledge but absolutely no experience. That dichotomy of naïveté and worldliness, intelligence and utter lack of guile made it irresistible from an acting standpoint. She’s by far the smartest person in the play (I think) and her ability to download information at the speed of light and effortlessly point out inconsistencies in other characters’ logic was completely compelling. 


What was your first impression of each other?

Robbie:
AWW! Marina has been one of my closest friends for a few years now. We played Pip and Estella, two other ’star crossed lovers’, in Great Expectations at Syracuse Stage in 2016. When I heard Marina was doing this, I was thrilled. We already know and trust each other so we were able to dive even further into Adam and Eve’s relationship. Marina is such an incredible performer, it makes me a better actor being on stage with her every night

Marina:
Robbie and I first met doing a production of Great Expectations at Syracuse Stage (Pip and Estella) and we really bonded on that show. When I heard we were doing Paradise together, I was delighted and relieved to have someone I already trusted and had a shorthand with. Our shared history meant that a foundation was already laid.  (But the first time I saw him in Syracuse, I thought he was a spicy meatball because he IS.)


What is your favorite moment onstage together as Adam and Eve?

Robbie:
In the second half of the show our characters have a disagreement. Tom, our playwright, has taken an epic subject matter but made the dialogue sound just like a conversation between two partners today. This is where the audience can really relate to Adam and Eve and reveals how universal relationships can be. 

Marina:
My favorite moments are the ones without words, where we can look at each other and just be present. Where I see he’s in pain but don’t have the language to comfort him, or when we’re discovering we might fundamentally disagree and are at an impasse, but love each other nonetheless. 


How did you find the connection you needed to pull off their relationship in the piece?

Robbie:
Due to our history as such close friends, our connection was there from Day 1. We have already played lovers so the trust, that can sometimes take weeks to develop in the rehearsal room, was there instantly. This allowed Marina and I to dive deeper into Adam and Eve and make the relationship as specific as possible. We have such a natural chemistry together—loving Marina is easy.

Marina:
Our shared history, unconditional friendship, and trust did so much of the work. It was like starting from level 7 instead of level 1. It makes such a difference in a love scene to have a partner you can trust and be vulnerable with. That’s just a given with Robbie. He’s got my back up there no matter what and I feel that every night. There are people who say they’ll do that and people who do it. Robbie just does it. 


What was the most important thing for you when crafting your individual character?

Robbie:
I wanted Adam to feel relatable to everyone in the audience. I wanted to bring as much of myself to the character. So, in each situation that Adam is in, I would find myself thinking, 'how would I react to what is being said?’ Adam is an almost ‘mythic’ character, but the more he reminds you of yourself, your boyfriend, or your friend—the more the story will feel relatable. 

Marina:
Removing the concept of shame. Removing awareness of the objectification of the female body. Championing a woman who lives outside of the male gaze. Fighting against the notion of women being subservient to men. Exploring what it means to have knowledge but no experience. How to lead with pure, shameless hunger, curiosity, and desire and let everything else fall in the wake of that. Discovering what it means to be human. How to be born as a fully grown adult. How your body moves without you telling it to. What it means to fall in love and share your soul with another person, without detracting from your own self-curiosity. Visualizing a world before society. If men and women would still behave the same without society. Attempting to remove the patriarchy from my brain. Reversing the flow of hatred and blame against all womankind.


What’s your pre-show like? Any rituals?

Robbie:
Of course! I am climbing and moving all over this set almost the whole show, so it is important to me to get a physical workout in just before the show. Lately, I’ve been loving the Sculpt classes at Core Power Yoga. The combination of yoga, a hot room, and weights also activates my breath, helping me with the language of the play. I like to connect with every cast member before the show, sometimes you can go your whole night without speaking to the other actors out of character. This helps our relationships when we are doing the piece. 

Marina:
Caffeine. Protein. Laughter. Opening up to the strange magic of being alive. 


Did you read any of Milton’s Paradise Lost?

Robbie:
Honestly, I did not. I joined the project late and it was more important to me to get all my character notes from the text we were provided. At the end of the day, we are interpreting and performing the play, not the poem. 

Marina:
Naturally.


What do you think this story has to say to audiences today?

Robbie:
The themes of good and evil; right and wrong, have been plaguing humans since the dawn of time. The struggles we deal with today—personally, domestically, and politically—have been a part of the human experience since the first man and woman and will continue long after we have left this earth. By recognizing this, we find peace in knowing we are not alone, perfect does not exist, and everyone has an ‘apple’ they would like to bite. To yearn for more is to be human. But at what cost?

Marina:
Apples are good for you.


Fictional couple who are totally #RelationshipGoals:

Robbie:
Cory and Topanga! (Boy Meets World)

Marina:
Heathcliff and Cathy. Just kidding. Caesar and Cleopatra. Just kidding. Antony and Cleopatra. Just kidding. Cleopatra.

Adam and Eve GIF- Paradise Lost-Robbie Simpson and Marina Shay GIF

Don’t miss Robbie Simpson and Marina Shay in Paradise Lost, running at Theatre Row on 42nd Street through March 1.