By Myra Chanin
If you think Einstein just woke up from a nap with e=mc2 floating before his eyes, you got a few more thinks comin’. To learn about what preceded that equation, go see Einstein which has been selected as one of the top ten shows of the 2016 New York Fringe Festival and rightly so. In it, actor/playwright Jack Fry brings the young Einstein back from the beyond, presumably with knowledge of “God’s thoughts. The rest is just details,” to tell the harrowing story of Einstein’s life as a young scientist, his battles for scientific acceptance, his distress as a young husband married to the wrong woman, and his struggles as a young father, all gleaned by Jack Fry’s extensive research into the recently released cache of 15,000 documents about this bona fide genius, allowing Fry to breathe life into one of the most intriguing icons of all time.
Jack Fry reinvented, wrote the play and portrays the young Einstein (and the nine characters who helped or thwarted him) between the years of 1905, the year in which he perfected his Theory of Special Relativity – OK work with a more complicated equations — and 1921, the year in which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. So what did Albert do in the interim? He endured a 15-year journey to perfect his Theory of General Relativity, which ushered in our modern technological age and changed the way we live our lives today.
These 21 years were not great years for Einstein. The world was crumbling around him due to The Great War, his colleagues were attempting to steal his theories. Fortunately they were not brilliant enough to prove them. He was isolated for his pacifist views. He had found a new inamorata and was struggling with his wife over a divorce. He was in failing health. Then there’s the huge scientific backlash, anti-Semitism, thoughts of suicide, his own self-destructive genius, his young son fighting for his father’s affection and attention. That’s enough shturm under drang to make even a lesser man’s hair “crazy” and prematurely turn it white.
Even God seemed against Einstein as year after year he awaited reports of a photo taken by an expedition during a solar eclipse. Would a comparison of non-eclipse and eclipse photos show that when the sun was blocked by the moon during an eclipse and was no longer the brightest object in the sky, the photo would show the light of more distant stars being bent by the sun as Einstein theorized? Finally after years of clouded eclipses, in 1919 a photo was taken that confirmed Einstein’s theory. And just this year, one hundred years after Einstein declared it, the final facet of his theory was proven: that gravitational waves — ripples in space-time — were created by the merging of two black holes.
Jack Fry’s Einstein is both intriguing and amusing. He plays the fiddle. He’s distressed by the downside of his celebrity, i.e. tee-shirts on which his likeness is printed, and even worse, bobble-head dolls of him.
For me, the most interesting thing about Einstein was his tremendous confidence in his work. In their 1919 divorce settlement, he agreed to give his estranged wife all of his Nobel Prize money. Why’s that a display of confidence. Einstein wasn’t awarded the Nobel Prize until 1921.
The theater in which Einstein is being performed is in a marvelously tacky East Village basement. It holds about 50 people and serves drinks before and after the show. The theater may be on the Fringe, but the production is not. Fry is an endearing performers with wonderful and changing accents.
Granted, Einstein accused my husband Alvin, that long-suffering saint sitting in the first row, of sleeping through most of his performance. A vile calumny! Alvin, who has slept through many more expensive theatrical productions, was wide-awake through the entire 80 minutes! My other theatrical companion was The Amazing Kreskin who had not only done extensive research on Einstein’s life, but had also been a fellow guest on a radio show with Jack Fry several years earlier. After standing beside Fry for a 20 seconds, Kreskin now claims to know what Einstein was thinking.
Under the Marks Theatre
94 St. Marks Place, between First Avenue and Avenue A, 10009
Three More Performances
Friday August 19 at 8 pm
Monday August 22 at 2:30 pm
Friday August 26 at 5:20 pm