EDDIE AND DAVE runs through Feb 17th in Manhattan
VHND reader Tom James and his wife Heather caught the 2:30pm matinee of “Eddie And Dave” on Eddie Van Halen’s recent birthday (Jan. 26th). The Stage 2 theatre was close to full. It included a fair number of older season-ticket holders mixed with a diverse age and gender cross-section.
Tom’s review is exclusively for VHND readers. Enjoy!
Photos by Ahron R. Foster
Tom James is ready! “An off-Broadway play about my heroes!”
Being a dutiful and hyper-patriotic citizen of VAN HALEN Nation, I salute the spirit of our fellow devotee, Author Amy Staats, who not only shares our passion, but who also strapped on bull nuts large enough to spotlight our heroes in an uncommon forum… off-Broadway.
What’s the more sizeable irony? The mammoth extravagance and too-much-is-never-enough ethos of VAN HALEN’s Mach 1 early years whittled down to a postage stamp stage setting OR the gender flip-flop hilarity of seeing Ed, Al, & Dave (in a move reminiscent of the Pretty Woman video hostage) played by women?
It’s a push… playfully preposterous!
Adina Verson as Alex Van Halen, and Megan Hill as David Lee Roth, in ‘Eddie and Dave’
“Eddie And Dave,” the off-Broadway play being performed over the course of a month at Atlantic Theatre Company’s (approx.) 117-seat Stage 2 in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City, is written by Amy Staats and directed by Margot Bordelon. Staats, who also plays the part of Eddie, includes in the fine print of the program the sentence: “The only thing real about this play is the author’s love of a certain band.”
Set in a late ‘70s/early ‘80s Hollywood club, a la the Starwood, the Whisky, the Roxy, or Gazzarri’s, the stage is painted in a near perfect replication of Ed’s Frankenstein guitar, in front of a wall of amps derived from the Hide Your Sheep Tour, and flanked by walls adorned with VAN HALEN posters, flyers, and artifacts, along with those of acts that followed the VH template.
The tug of war between internal Ed and extrovert Dave (played by Megan Hill) is the not so subtle recurring thread throughout the 95-minute, no intermission story. That dynamic which propelled the band to its greatest triumphs and saw it plummet to its most depressing depths is not lost on Staats.
Interspersed narration is provided by Vanessa Aspillaga (playing the part of a former MTV VJ) who, like a witness to the histrionics, recounts key events that paved the path between the time period of 1962 and 2014.
Curiously, “Eddie And Dave” opens with a brief visit to the scene of the infamous 1996 MTV Video Music Awards, then rewinds to the moment that Ed and Al (Adina Verson) arrived in Southern California from Holland. From there, it plays forward with detail more scant at times than what a seasoned fan would prefer. Still woven in effectively is both the man-in-the-middle aspect of Alex coupled with the voice-in-the-ear presence of Valerie Bertinelli (played by a man (!) Omer Abbas Salem). At the center of it all is the treacherous relationship that was E & D from the formative years through the ascension to colossal mega-stardom. It defines the narrative, touching on hubris, love, respect, jealousy, co-dependence, and animosity. Mind you, those aspects don’t ever completely go away in this telling even up to the current decade and the final “A Different Kind Of Truth” chapter.
Omer Abbas Salem plays Valerie Bertinelli in Eddie and Dave.
The story skips over the Sammy and Gary years, with but minor mentions of the two eras. And alas, Michael Anthony is humorously played by a periodically referenced framed picture on the wall.
No VAN HALEN 1-percenter should expect to glean any suddenly uncovered juicy factoids from this script. This is a light dramedy… not the theatrical equivalent of Greg Renoff’s highly sourced revelation filled book “Van Halen Rising.” However, the casual observer will gather a fair overall tone of the band’s delicate nature.
Character development is not the play’s strong suit, leaving the fellas’ unique intricacies somewhat untapped. Additionally, the script’s overall verbiage is less than elevated and often sophomoric.
Amy Staats in ‘Eddie and Dave’
“Eddie And Dave’s” highs and lows in some ways resemble the roller coaster ride of VH fans. From the orgasmic glee they have heaped on us to the undeniable truth that this, the best band of all-time has also been, on and off, “doin’ all it can to make us sad and blue.”
Ultimately, the play is rough around the edges in an endearing way. It’s a surprising and welcome left turn during a period of band inactivity that, if nothing else, exposes the story of our little band from Pasadena to an audience who (largely) may not have been lucky enough to have had The Mighty VAN HALEN pass near their life lane.
With all the risk, potential peril, and (wo)man hours invested to create this, “Eddie And Dave” in the end is mostly a DIY triumph and for that gets a “standing O.”
THIS REVIEW is written by Tom James. Tom is a 20-plus year veteran TV sportscaster. His website is TOMJAMESLIVE.com
“EDDIE AND DAVE”
WHEN | WHERE Now through Feb. 17 (Extended!), Atlantic Stage 2, 330 West 16 St., Manhattan
INFO 866-811-4111, atlantictheater.org
CAST: Vanessa Aspillaga (MTV VJ), Megan Hill (DLR), Omer Abbas Salem (Valeri Bertinelli), Amy Staats (EVH), and Adina Verson (AVH).
DIRECTOR: Margot Bordelon
“Mind-bending glee! In the world of glam metal, peacocks of any sex can prance to the earsplitting sound of power chords.”
BEN BRANTLEY, NEW YORK TIMES
“Smart & funny! Its masterstroke is to cast women as the band, a choice that effortlessly transforms the play into a vivacious dissertation on the performance of gender. In a better world, this is what a Broadway jukebox musical would look like.”
ROLLO ROMIG, THE NEW YORKER
“Eddie and Dave makes spectacular use of its female actors in male roles, under Margot Bordelon’s super-sharp direction. They have that androgynous thing down pat, what Mick Jagger personified before he turned 30.”
ROBERT HOFLER, THE WRAP
“Big wigs, bigger guitar licks, and a splashy backstage dish-o-rama of epic rock-and-roll proportions.”
SARA HOLDREN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE
“A big-hearted, unabashedly goofy rock bioplay! Eddie and Dave throws us back to the glory days of 1980s hair metal.”
HELEN SHAW, TIME OUT NEW YORK
“A hilarious fable of rock ’n’ roll! 100 minutes that are indeed as magical as they are ridiculous.”
ZACHARY STEWART, THEATERMANIA
“Hilarious, unexpectedly touching & altogether delightful reimagining of one of classic rock’s last, best epic rivalries. A requiem for a bygone time.”
ELYSE GARDNER, NEW YORK STAGE REVIEW