Van Halen may not currently be on tour, but fans can see portrayals of guitarist Eddie Van Halen and singer David Lee Roth mix it up Off-Broadway in the new play “Eddie and Dave” from the Atlantic Theater Company.
The 90-minute stage production, directed by Margot Bordelon, focuses on the unique chemistry and complicated relationship of the shy axeman and the gregarious frontman.
“I’ve always been fascinated by band breakups,” says playwright Amy Staats, who plays Eddie. “I was taken by the humanity and the struggle of these two people who are opposites but need each other. It has all the elements of a Greek play.”
The play’s interesting twist is that the members of the all-male rock band are portrayed by females.
“For us it’s not so much women playing men, these are just amazing characters,” says actress Megan Hill, who takes on the role of Roth. “In some ways it allows the audience to have this separation from the real people. I think they can take in the story in a purer way.”
Staats adds, “If guys had been in the play, it might not be right for where we are now in theater. Sometimes you need someone other than yourself to show the truth.”
The play starts with the failed reunion at the infamous 1996 MTV Video Music Awards when the band’s dysfunction was televised in front of millions.
“That video clip immediately captured my attention and then I just started following the dots,” says Staats. “I wanted to know what happened. Everybody seemed very upset. It was my entryway into the story.”
In the clip, Roth stole the spotlight from Beck, who was trying to deliver an acceptance speech for best male video and in turn embarrassed the rest of the band.
“When Dave is in front of an audience, he cannot help himself,” says Hill. “If there’s a crowd, the switch is on.”
An MTV VJ (played by Vanessa Aspillaga) narrates the tale, which flashes back to when Eddie and his brother Alex (portrayed by Adina Verson) immigrated to America from the Netherlands with their parents in the ‘60s, to when the band formed in Pasadena, California, in the ‘70s, to VH’s reunion album, “A Different Kind of Truth,” in 2012.
The play even includes Van Halen’s marriage to TV sitcom star actress Valerie Bertinelli, who is comedically played by Omer Abbas Salem.
“I tried to write Val as a hero,” says Staats. “I wanted her to be the reasonable one. I didn’t want her to be a woman who comes in the middle of the band and messes it up.”
The heart of the show is the push and pull between Eddie and Dave and the magic that sparks off their union.
“It’s like they just can’t quit each other,” says Hill. “There’s something special there. When they play together, it’s like lightning in a bottle.”
“EDDIE AND DAVE”
WHEN | WHERE Now through Feb. 10, Atlantic Stage 2, 330 West 16 St., Manhattan
INFO 866-811-4111, atlantictheater.org