Low Emotional Quotient

The Einstein Doll

By Eduardo Garcia
Directed by Nina Terranova
Full Spectrum Productions
Chelsea Playhouse
125 West 22nd Street (505-4275)
Equity showcase (closes May 30th)
Review by Sheila Mart

The Einstein Doll is a skillfully written play that handles the sensitive issue of incest. It opens with the lead character, Meg, attempting suicide by taking pills, while talking on the phone to her cousin, Wendy, who is her sole confidante. Others - Wendy's husband, Howard; a friend and would-be lover of Meg's, Arthur - come to her rescue, getting her to a hospital and thence to a therapist, Kathy. From that point on, her sessions with Kathy tell the story of Meg's incestuous relationship with her father - in flashback - a style too cinematic for theatre. This conceit continues throughout the play with many very short scenes ending in blackouts.

Meg, over the years, has convinced herself that she not only loves her father, Frank, but is in love with him. On some level, she knows this to be wrong, so she picks up a young man, Jay, at a party. She and Jay embark on an affair, which becomes deeply emotional. Jay wants to marry her, but Meg, feeling the same way, is unable to express her feelings because of her attachment to Frank. The sometimes graphic details of Meg's relationship with her father contrast effectively with those of her relationship with Jay. Jay has a doll - the Einstein Doll of the title - given to him by his intellectual father years before. It has become an emotional crutch for him and is perhaps a metaphor for the conflict of paternal and amorous feelings between Meg and Frank.

Meg's mother, Harriet, apparently has known about Frank and Meg's "secret" since the beginning and chooses not to let her daughter know this. When she berates Frank for his behavior, he offers the lame excuse that he got involved with Meg because Harriet had become reclusive and had long since given up sex with her husband. This device stretches credibility. Although the story has a positive ending, it ends about five minutes before it actually ends. Perhaps the biggest weakness of the piece is that there are too many shallow characters who don't contribute to the central drama.

As Meg, Xan Garcia gave an emotionally comprehensive and credible performance. Andrew Fetherolf's Frank was equally effective and moving, although a tad mannered at times. Valentine Miele did a commendable job in a thankless role as Jay. Laurie Lowenstein's Harriet was as consummate as the author allowed her to be. Christina Tullock (Wendy), Clyde Baldo (Howard), Jean Lichty (Kathy) and Eric Rath (Arthur) managed to be convincing in their contributions to the story.

The direction was imaginatively conceived, and worked well with the author's cinematic conceits.

James Stewart's lighting was effective and also consistent with the story-telling technique. The set design by John Popovitch - with a collection of soft-covered and regular chairs and a low table - did much to create the illusion of different scenes. Rebecca Meyer Steinman's costumes were low-key and therefore just right.
Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 1
Set: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 1999 Sheila Mart