She was a rebel even in an era of nonconformity.
Eve Adams, a Polish Jewish lesbian, was celebrated by the Jazz Age counterculture for her support of sexual liberation in Greenwich Village, but then targeted by the municipal authorities for promoting indecency. In Barbara Kahn’s new play, “The Spring and Fall of Eve Adams,” Adams (Steph van Vlack) is shown during the brief period in the mid-1920s when she owned a tearoom on Macdougal Street, a place that became a haven for writers who openly celebrated erotic — and homoerotic — pleasure both in their work and in their lives. Jon Dalin. Marisa Petsakos, Jimmy Heyworth, Anna Podolak, Micha Lazare, Michelle Cohen and Martha Lee are also in the cast.
Kahn has written more than three dozen plays, including last year’s “Walking from Rumania,” about a group of Jewish women who decided to escape from oppression in Eastern Europe by walking hundreds of miles to the Hungarian border, and “Get Down from the Ceiling, Joanna,” a play about a Jewish woman who clings to the ceiling of her Lower East Side tenement apartment rather than go through with an arranged marriage; meanwhile, a century of change passes by outside the building. Among the most unusual of her plays, “Pyrates! The Courtship Chronicles” features a Sephardic Jewish pirate from Jamaica in the early 18th century, at a time of rebellions, hurricanes and earthquakes.
Known as the “queen of the third sex,” Adams (or Addams) was born Eva Zloczower in Poland in 1893. She came to America in 1912, where she first owned a tearoom in Chicago with another woman. She moved to New York and opened a similar establishment at 129 Macdougal St. named Eve’s Hangout, which sponsored weekly poetry readings, musical performances and salons. Eve’s Hangout was patronized mostly by women; a sign on the door read, “Men are admitted, but not welcome.”
During a 1926 crackdown on gay and lesbian clubs in the Village, the tearoom was entered by an undercover female police officer. Eve innocently showed the officer the manuscript of a collection of short stories that she was writing entitled “Lesbian Love.” She was arrested and ultimately deported; she ended up in France, where she sold newspapers, magazines and pornographic books to the customers of Parisian cafes. Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and others came to depend on Adams to promote their works.
In a telephone interview, Kahn told The Jewish Week that Adams “created a safe place for lesbians to gather, which bothered a lot of people, including Progressives in the Village who were very homophobic, despite their left-leaning political views.” In this play, as in her past work, Kahn sought subjects that “we haven’t seen before, or that we’ve seen in stereotypical ways.” Her aim, she said, is to “uncover stories that have been forgotten or overlooked” — like that of the remarkable Eve Adams.
“The Spring and Fall of Eve Adams” runs through May 2 at the Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. Performances are Thursday-Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. For tickets, $12, call OvationTix at (212) 352-3101 or visit www.ovationtix.com.
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