All starts most intriguingly on Jeff G. Rack's stark set of black and grays with vibrant red accents. Watching the serpentine young woman and dangling red apple, we think of the Garden of Eden. In this Vern Thiessen play, the Adam and Eve are Andy and Evelyn, the snake is Samantha.

But the production quickly falls from grace. The likely explanation is Rachel Goldberg's flat direction of dialogue that needs high style to keep it from being disappointingly banal. Without a director's touch to point the audience in the right direction, we have no clue why Andy would continue to stand by the hateful Evelyn, even after death does them part - and thus no clue about the power of love and forgiveness that is probably buried in the script.

Carmit Levite is a lissome Samantha, finding a tone that suits the play. Albie Selznick is sympathetic in his simple portrait of Andy. But as Evelyn, Ellyn Stern fumbles lines left and right, is uncomfortable in her body, and seems not to have fully explored her character. "Are you screwing someone?" Evelyn asks, allotting it the concern she'd give the question, "Did you water the plants?" She seems, in behavior and appearance onstage, more like Andy's mother than wife, which adds confusion to the evening.

Goldberg allows whispery voices, sloppy pacing, and an annoying sound design to further distract us. By the play's midpoint, we don't care about any of the characters. By the three-quarter mark, it's still hard to discern the play's viewpoint. Then, there's the factually preposterous unfolding of events: Andy has been at the bedside of the ill Evelyn for weeks, but he still doesn't know what metastasized means?

The production's one interesting moment arrives when Samantha and Andy bind Ellyn's head with a musliny scarf. The production's most uncomfortable moment is shoehorned in just before the play's end, when Samantha in direct address tells us that cancer need not be fatal thanks to prevention, nutrition, and early detection. Sorry to say, this Apple is not worth a bite.

Presented by Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. April 25-May 24. Repertory schedule. (310) 364-0535.