by: Sandi Durell
There’s a lot crammed into this 2 ½ hour world premier written by Jay Prasad for the Variations Theatre Group, currently in residence at The Theatre at St. Clement’s.
In fact, it’s just about every highlight and lowlight regarding the father of Relativity, famed physicist Albert Einstein. Scientists, generally, hear and speak another tongue, finding themselves in their heads most of the time; such was the case with the multi complex Einstein (played by Richard Kent Green), who lived and breathed the universe as he tried to find answers about how it operated.
With sparse scenery and some projection screens, the scenes unfold moving from his youthful years beginning in 1905 at age 26 in Berne, Switzerland where he is working at the Swiss patent office, a position he came by thru Marcel Grossman’s father, (Grossman a lifelong friend – mathematician played by Frank Palmer, who plays multiple roles), giving him free time to ponder more important matters like the speed of light.
There is insight into Einstein the Jew, the man, the womanizer; a child born out of wedlock, the result of an affair with Mileva, a physics student (Jill Catherine Durso, who also plays Ilse/Ms. Ducas) whom he eventually marries and divorces, his relationship with science colleague, Michele Besso, a vaudevillian clown like Grant Kretchik, with whom he would speak psychics for hours.
The problems with this play are multiple. If you’re a student or seeker of historical material relating to Einstein, then you’ll find yourself engaged in the information about Newton’s laws, which led Einstein to formulating the principle of relativity, to mathematics, to E=MC(square), molecules, atoms, protons, electrons, quantum mechanics and other scientific jargon. Facts fly and, at times, you feel as if you’re back in the classroom .
Einstein, who liked young women, although he married older ones (including a first cousin Elsa (Sheilagh Weymouth), was cruel to his wives. There is an appearance by Hitler (Jay William Thomas) addressing a rally in 1932 Germany referencing the eventual extermination of the Jews and denouncing Einstein and his “Jewish physics.” This prompts Einstein and Elsa to leave Berlin for America, taking a position at Princeton, where he meets Dr. Hubbel (Frank Palmer), the conversation now about astronomy, leading to his admission that he was wrong denying there was a Big Bang in the Universe.
Going against his own personal ethics, Einstein and other scientists alert Pres. Roosevelt about the possibility of a Nazi nuclear bomb urging the development of the weapon, although he preached non-violence – – no more wars, more cooperation between nations. The outcome, of course, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan and its very descriptive horrors.
As a supporter of civil rights, he is targeted by the FBI during the McCarthy era. Although he did not believe in religion, in later years he was involved in Israel’s growth. He died from an abdominal aortic aneurysm and internal bleeding on April 17, 1955.
The performances are uneven and the script needs editing to make it less tedious. This is a definite ‘back to the drawing board.’
Directed by Randolph Curtis Rand, “Einstein” continues thru August 25th at Theatre at St. Clement’s , 423 W. 46 St. NYC www.variationstheatregroup.com
*Photos Carol Rosegg