Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

One Stone (Einstein)
Cinnabar Theater
Review by Patrick Thomas | Season Schedule

Also see Patrick's reviews of The Real Americans and Hand to God and Richard's review of Daniel's Husband

Eric Thompson
Photo by Eric Chazankin
There is a certain genre of performance that seeks to recreate the experience of being in the room with a person of note: Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain, Holland Taylor as Ann Richards, Bryan Cranston as LBJ in All The Way. One Stone (Einstein), playing through February 19th only, is in that vein. And what rich material! A Jew who slipped from Hitler's grasp in 1933 and went on to transform our perceptions of the world thanks to his groundbreaking work in theoretical physics. A pacifist who faced a Sophie's choice in terms of whether or not to encourage nuclear weapons research, who was offered the presidency of Israel and politely turned it down. And he could be a bit of scamp, too, sticking out his tongue for the camera and all that.

Trevor Allen, therefore, has taken on a challenge of rather epic proportions. The bounty of the source material almost guarantees a certain level of interest from the philosophically inclined, and Allen has created an imaginative, multi-layered approach to presenting a man whose name is synonymous with genius—but he undercuts these noble efforts with weaknesses in many of those layers.

As Einstein, Eric Thompson has the right sort of giddy energy to play the scamp, but Allen hasn't given him a script equal to the character. There's humor, and an arc of sorts, but no real throughline or clear theme to pull the audience through the story. If physics fascinates you (as it somehow does math-deficient me), Allen delivers enough to keep your attention, but if you aren't so enraptured with relativity, it would be easy to lose one's way.

Allen and his collaborators, director Elizabeth Craven and puppet designer and choreographer Michael Nelson, have staged One Stone using a combination of puppetry, projection, props—and a musician (Jennifer Cho)—performing a soundtrack of classical solo violin pieces. Sheila Devitt does a good job with Nelson's puppets (which are fittingly frumpy), taking us back to points in Einstein's life: a schoolboy Einstein, a young, Patent Office clerk-era Einstein, and the white-haired, tongue-flashing icon of intellect Einstein was near the end of his life. Cho's music is lovely, and director Craven wields it well, both as a transitional element and soundtrack to onstage action. It's always welcome, but never overstays that welcome.

The projections, while important and informative, are the weakest of the key elements that compose One Stone. There seems to be little visual continuity, and when no projections are required, the screens go gray, rather that resting on a projected neutral graphic or image so they don't look inoperative.

Fortunately, One Stone has one big thing going for it. Einstein is so fascinating and said so many insightful (and quotable) things, that you could make an interesting show almost by random. Follow a general birth to death plotline and let him do the talking, and you've got something anyone interested in the man and his thoughts could glean something from. But Einstein deserves more. He showed us how to look at the world in new ways, and One Stone would be more successful if it showed us a new way of looking at the man, as well.

One Stone (Einstein) plays through February 19, 2017, at the Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd North, Petaluma. Shows are Thursday-Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. (Though only Thursday's show currently has availability.) Tickets are $25 general ($30 at the door), $20 for military and those under 30, and $15 for those 21 and under. Tickets and additional information are available at or by calling 707-763-8920.

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