All about Eve’s apple
and more about John Milton

A review of Red Bull Theater’s Paradise Lost and Adam may not have bitten into an apple after all

By Byron Toben

My recent articles about New York’s Red Bull Theater’s streamed dramatic readings of Milton’s Paradise Lost inspired my enquiring mind to slightly deviate from concentrating on the words and facial expressions therein as I wondered, which kind of apple did Eve bite into? Red Bull used a red apple, so that ruled out Granny Smith in its opinion. I resolved to research this post-show, and below are the results.

But first, a word about the inventive actors – each Zoomed from their respective 12 homes, most in New York or California, a few in Chicago or elsewhere.

… which kind of apple did Eve bite into? Red Bull used a red apple, so that ruled out Granny Smith in its opinion.

As Lucifer turned Satan turned Serpent, Jason Butler Harner wisely refrained from overplaying his part, made more haunting by his subtleness.

As the naive Adam, Sheldon Best was amusingly smiley, evoking traces of literary innocents Candide or Li’l Abner.

As the doomed Eve, Gisela Chide blended elements of curiosity and pleasantness.

Red Bull Theater Paradise Lost

Cast of Red Bull Theater’s Paradise Lost – Image: courtesy of Red Bull Theater

As the Father (aka God), Saidah Arrika Ekulona was properly authoritarian.

As the Son (aka Jesus), Daniel Jose Molina was properly unquestionably loyal to Father, as his own big show was to be ages in the future.

All about Eve’s… apple

And now, as the Forbidden Fruit (drum roll)… “The apple” or was it? According to sources…

Eve, the Serpent and Death

Eve, the Serpent and Death – Image: Hans Baldung, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Neither Genesis (Old Testament) nor the Gospel of Luke (New) refers to which fruit it was, let alone which species thereof. Rather, it is only referred to as the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

This pressing issue remained unresolved until 16th Century painters in Europe brushed in the popular apple, originally introduced way back when from Asia. German painter Hans Boldung’s 1525 Eve, the Serpent and Death shows her holding a red apple. Since 1972, this painting is the property of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch had earlier incorporated some elements of the Eve and apple story into parts of his massive 1510 triptych Garden of Earthly Delights.

The USAO lists 7,500 varieties of apples, ranging from Akane to Zester. I focused on the seven most popular. In order, they are Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp and McIntosh.

We will never know which type of apple Eve ate or even if it was an apple. Might have been a pear, peach, orange or banana. I think it was a diabolical omission by Satan him/herself to waste the time of future humans. I hereby dub this quest Satan’s Conundrum – and I’ve fallen into it.

More about John Milton

Red Bull Theater, which produced the streamed version of Milton’s Paradise Lost, held a “bull session” via ZOOM on April 29 on which director/adaptor Michael Barakiva believed that Milton, who was blind for 22 years, dictated his epic intending it to be a drama in “blank verse” (unrhymed metrics), perhaps influenced by Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter, the most popular form thereof. Thus, by labouring through the huge original to reconstitute a play script, Barakiva has resurrected Milton’s original intent.

Milton dictates Lost Paradise

Milton dictates Lost Paradise – Image: Eugène Delacroix, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This brought to my mind the devil’s complaint in G. Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell about some English author (Milton) having maligned him (Satan) as being driven from heaven with cannon and furor but no harm done, as it was in a work that is so long that no one has actually read through all of it.

Well, now at least one has done so in the person of Mr. Barakliva.

The adaptor also added that the Calvinist Milton was caught in a dichotomy of sorts in that he was a proponent of democracy on earth but God ruled a kingdom (heaven), which must be authoritarian. I must add that, despite all literary efforts, earthly conflicts between populism and authoritarianism persist.

Feature image: The Fall of Man by Hendrik Goltzius (1616)
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More articles from Byron Toben

Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

Clearly has launched Reincarnate, Frames made from Recycled Plastic.

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