Two educated, well-groomed contemporary women relay their individual trials and tribulations while balancing career and family in "Eve-olution." Structured as parallel monologues, the play is based on the experiences of its first-time playwrights, who also starred before replacing themselves with pros for the move to Off Broadway.

This review was corrected on Oct. 21, 2004.

Two educated, well-groomed contemporary women relay their individual trials and tribulations while balancing career and family in “Eve-olution.” Structured as parallel monologues, the play is based on the experiences of its first-time playwrights, who also starred before replacing themselves with pros for the move to Off Broadway. While the work is charming, straightforward and polished, so much earnest confession gets a bit grating in a play that could carry the tagline, “Even when you’re upper-middle-class, intellectual and good-looking, life can be really hard.”

The play opens with the two early 30s women behind desks, entrenched in their work: Liza (Sabrina Le Beauf), who’s pregnant, has started her MFA in writing. Anthropologist Alison (Carolyn McCormick) has landed her dream job as a professor at Cornell.

Soon after, the curtain rises to reveal David Korins’ lifelike yellow nursery with stacks of cloth diapers encroaching from all sides, illustrating the equal parts of comforting and smothering domesticity these women will swathe themselves in. The babies — four for one, three for the other — soon pile up, challenging the mothers to balance career and home; connect with their husbands; and cope with stress, depression and isolation, losing their old identity and feeling like a bad mom.

At its best, the show is touching and potentially familiar, at its worst, self-indulgent and elitist. The authors seem to be aware of this potential pitfall. Liza references an acquaintance who holds down two jobs and is the single parent of four, wondering how she herself can be having such a hard time with all the resources at her fingertips.

At another moment, Alison speaks of getting no sympathy from her senior female professors who ask her what she’s complaining about when she has a full-time nanny to help. The character replies, “She’s not a nanny, she’s an au pair. Am I the only one knows the difference?”

While thematically quite similar, the anecdotes mined from the playwrights’ lives are authentic and delightfully detailed. The play’s most effective moments call for thesps to personify other characters in their stories: their clueless husbands, difficult children, annoying neighbors, etc.

This means McCormick plays her tantrum-prone older daughter, toddler son, doltish husband, a perturbing friend and an architect she is getting steamed up about, without a single prop. Le Beauf shows what it’s like to have unsatisfying sex with her husband on the kitchen counter while trying to conquer Paxil’s side-effect of delayed-orgasm response.

The intimate, playful and physical perfs of the two seasoned actresses expertly illustrate these welcome bits of show in the tell, tell, tell style of the play’s narrative.

Eve-olution

Cherry Lane Theater; 178 seats; $55

Production

A Cherry Lane Theater, Mari Nakachi, Lucy Anda and Meg Staunton presentation of a play in one act by Hilary Illick and Jennifer Krier. Directed by Carolyn Cantor.

Creative

Sets, David Korins; costumes, Jenny Mannis; lighting, Matt Richards; sound, Eric Shim; production stage manager, Dyanne McNamara. Reviewed Oct. 17, 2004. Opened Oct. 20, 2004. Running time: 1 HOUR, 20 MIN.

Cast

Liza - Sabrina Le Beauf Alison - Carolyn McCormick
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