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A CurtainUp Review
Voted Time's "Person of the Century," Albert Einstein is perhaps the most important single influence on the development of our current mindset as well as on twentieth century physics. Einstein's theory of relativity, an unprecedented scientific and philosophic revolution, changed our understanding of time and space forever. His ideas reverberated beyond science into modern culture, and affected everything from politics to art.
With E=mc², Einstein effectively put an end to the notion of absolutes, observing that everything is moving relative to everything else and that there are no absolute frames of reference. He also made clear that space and time are inherently warped (by gravity), and that our perceptions of space and time are completely subjective (because there are no absolute frames of reference). Thanks to relativity, it is now commonly accepted that "reality" has many meanings and is in fact just a collection of subjectivities.
The term "relativity theory" actually refers to two of Einstein's theories: the special theory, published in 1905, and the general theory, published in 1916. In 1905, Einstein was a humble patent clerk in Bern, Switzerland, in a new marriage, struggling to make ends meet while he completed his research. Perhaps nowhere else is this period of his life more wistfully described than in Alan Lightman's 1994 novel, Einstein's Dreams. It is a dreamy and elegiac novella, and has become almost a cult classic.
Holderness Theater Company is doing a new production of Einstein's Dreams, using Kipp Erante Cheng's adaptation of the novel. It supposes that Einstein's dreams informed his inspiration for his theories on time, and takes a surreal look into his creative impulses. In this story, time is measured in images, not hours or days--time is variously a line, a circle, a hangman's noose. The actors move and weave through the play, repeating bits of text, soliloquizing on the nature of time. It's quite intriguing, and offers much food for thought. Jared Coseglia as Einstein is brooding and intense; Kate Kohler Amory as his wife Mileva is strong and sharp, balancing his pensive wanderings.
The ensemble acting is quite good, but largely unnecessary. There are a few too many actors, far too many wooden chairs, and too much intricately choreographed movement. All that movement and all those different voices are distracting, especially for such an intimate piece. However, the space is lovely--cozy, warmly lit, with just enough exposed brick, classroom-type furniture and overflowing bookshelves to convey the essence of Einstein. The actors use the space well, and in an energetic fashion. Their timeless (no pun intended) black-and-white costumes a visual complement to the warm brick walls and wood floors.
As a whole, the play is more whimsical than wistful; it maintains an aura of poignancy, but more from the strength of the text than of the production. Anyone who enjoyed the novel (or, for that matter, enjoys Einstein) should certainly see this play. The beauty of the text far outweighs the shortcomings of the production.
If your interest in the novel that inspired this play has been whetted, it's available from our bookstore: Einstein's Dream-- paperback edition
Reviews of two quite different Einstein plays CurtainUp has reviewed:
Einstein: A Stage Portrait
The Einstein Project
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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