Thursday, October 15, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEWS EINSTEIN’S DREAM and A NUMBER By Beverly Creasey Time in a Bottle

Were it nor for Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Jim Croce might not have thought of saving TIME in a bottle. TIME connects two plays (running in repertory) at the Central Square Theater and it informs another one up at New Repertory Theatre. EINSTEIN’S DREAMS and COPENHAGEN are chain reacting in Central Sq. on alternating days through Nov. 15th (with the same cast in each)… and A NUMBER is multiplying in Watertown through Nov. 1st..

The two plays at Central Sq. (produced by Underground Railway Theater and M.I.T. Catalyst Collaborative) are related by physics, of course, but more importantly, they’re related by apocalypse. Einstein wrote to President Truman imploring him not to use the atomic bomb and there would be no bomb to warn about, were it not for the atomic explorations of Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg.

EINSTEIN’S DREAMS (adapted by Wesley Savick from the Alan Lightman bestseller) is a theatrical fantasia in which Einstein’s extraordinary ideas come and go like the characters he remembers. The play itself is, like Einstein’s “reconception of time,” a reconceptualization of his ideas bouncing against a clever backdrop of comedy, movement, music and dance.

Theater, it turns out, is the perfect medium for an explication of Einstein’s work precisely because it can skip around in time, defying the laws of nature. Time is compressed to fit into a short play… and concurrently, expanded to include Einstein’s past, present and future. Savick bends time backwards on itself (mimicking Einstein’s “reciprocity theory”) because time is not a limiting factor on stage: We can observe Einstein at several different points in his life. For example, we are able to observe him at work in the patent office, daydreaming about energy and mass, light years, so to speak, before his famous E = mc2.

The Einstein we meet on stage speculates that the dimensions of time could be blurred so that we might meet our deceased parents again… or if time were frozen, we could savor one moment for as long as we like (although that didn’t work out so well for Faust). Each idea and speculation is illustrated with music or photographs and the inventive gestural language of the three actors.

Debra Wise and Steven Barkhimer are the charming supporting players who anchor Robert Najarian as Einstein. They dance with him. They joke with him. They are the electrons to his vibrant nucleus. He jumps for joy when contemplating the world and its mathematical possibilities. Najarian fairly bursts with energy in Wesley Savick’s vibrant production (so much energy that I had a bit of trouble making out his dialogue, coming at us at lightening speed through a thick German accent.) I have no doubt that Najarian and Savick will iron out that wrinkle in time!
My COPENHAGEN review will follow as soon as I see the play.

NUMBER, Please

Caryl Churchill’s A NUMBER (at New Rep through Nov. 1st) takes cloning and ingeniously adds the factor of TIME to the procedure: Each clone in Churchill’s imagining has been incubated over and over from the same DNA. Churchill is asking if they’re actually the same each time. Does it matter that each was cloned years apart? Since nature has been removed from the equation, does nurture matter to a clone?

Christina Todesco’s giant “bug zapper” towers buzz ominously as a clearly distressed son (Nael Nacer) asks his father (Dale Place) about his origins. Then another son appears who looks exactly like the first one and he asks relatively the same questions but he’s plenty angry. Perhaps with good reason.
Director Clay Hopper creates a forced calm on stage which increases our apprehension as more and more information surfaces. We’re watching intently to learn who these people are. Having seen the measured filmed version (A NUMBER) with Tom Wilkinson and Rhys Ifans, I must say I prefer the stage play. Watching Place slowly unravel and Nacer triumph in three distinct roles make this NUMBER add up to compelling theater.