Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol
The Einstein Project
Tommy Schrider plays Einstein, who moved from Europe to America, from approximately 1919 through 1945. The script delves into scientific thoughts of: Werner Heisenberg (James Barry), Fritz Haber (David Chandler), Max Von Lane (Kyle Fabel), Walter Gerlach (C.J. Wilson), Otto Hahn (Walter Hudson), and Clara Immerwahr (Brandy Caldwell). They were members of the Uranium Club. Caldwell also plays the Japanese Woman and Jesse Hinson is the Eighth Man.
Einstein, the center of the piece, claims that he does not experience emotions. Yet, he married more than once and had three children. He was a modest man who acknowledged his Jewish heritage and did allude to God. He insisted that the universe was structured and that there was, indeed, an order to it all. He was at odds with Heisenberg as they debated relativity. Einstein and Heisenberg were friends but combative when they debated. Ultimately, Albert Einstein would implore President Eisenhower to avoid nuclear disaster.
Joseph Varga's scenic design depicts an industrial space which might be a warehouse or factory or barrack. This is a gritty, dark locale which allows Matthew E. Adelson's lighting to accentuate mood shifts. The sounds which J Hagenbuckle furnishes are appropriate even when jarring.
The play is actually underway before one word is spoken. Eric Hill (director, actor and educator) trained for many summers with Tadashi Suzuki, the brilliant Japanese theater master and director. Hill's signature productions utilize his modifications and adaptations of the trainingwith stunning results. The Einstein Project begins as an ensemble of actors (Megan R. Carr, Emily Grove, Cameron Harms, Betsy Lippitt, Tony Rios, John St. Croix and others) emerge with a stylized slow movement walk as they gradually inch from one section of the stage to another. Isadora Wolfe, trained in dance, assists with this. The atmosphere of the play is immediately established. During other moments of the production, the group will appear and the deliberate procedures, entirely original, again mark the performance. When Hill was Artistic Director of StageWest (in Springfield, Massachusetts) during the early 1990s, he utilized, always to advantage, his own Suzuki training. He has carried forth with his subsequent work at the University of Connecticut and Brandeis University; and, during summers, at Berkshire Theatre Festival.
We first view Einstein as he and his son Edward (Miranda Hope Shea) appear in a rocking, wooden boat. The vessel is meant to sail. One might suppose at this moment, given the proximity, that the two would have a close, long, pivotal relationship. The substance of this play, however, revolves around Einstein and his colleaguesthe scientists.
The Einstein Project, two hours in length, does not move quickly. Hill wishes to unveil slowly and build to a cracking crescendo near the conclusion of the play. Complex by its nature, the production serves to interface science with politics. Einstein will, though, take on the personal and philosophical as he speaks of fear. Upon occasion, his commentary is rich with meaning: "All scientific endeavor is based upon freedom ..."
Some opening act sequences are abrupt and clipped. This, one assumes, is the intent. The second act flows more fluently, bringing us an Einstein who is based in Princeton, New Jersey, and speaks of war and human life.
The Einstein Project continues at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Massachusetts through July 18th. For ticket information, call (413) 298-5576 or visit berkshiretheatre.org.
- Fred Sokol