Tuesday January 17th 2017

“Einstein’s Gift” reviewed by Emily Johnson

giftheader“Einstein’s Gift” tells the story of the development of nerve gas in WWI by chemist Fritz Haber (Chris Saunders). The parade of world events between the wars marches on as Haber has an ongoing conversation with frenemy Albert Einstein (Guy F. Wicke) about the scientist’s responsibility to the applications of his inventions. They argue over the importance of pure versus applied science, which seems to stand in as the thin end of the wedge issue between them, even as it becomes increasingly clear that their argument is strictly academic. Scientific discoveries will be used for various applications, both civil and military, and today we’ve accepted this so thoroughly as to be arguing for the end of public support of general scientific discovery in favor of methods that assume use and applicability first.

The conversation, and therefore the play, follows Haber’s growth as a professor of chemistry in his native Germany, for which he renounces Judaism and is baptized. He develops, with the help of his wife Clara, a nitrogen fixer, which ultimately leads to the Nobel Prize, and the development of a chlorine gas used at the front in WWI.

The play’s conversation becomes a larger metaphor—Haber’s pragmatism and careerism set against Einstein’s idealistic views—pacifist, unrepentant Jew, and believer in science as a pure philosophy.einstein's gift

For him, applications come later and are not the point of scientific discovery. Of course, Einstein’s both vindicated (conversion doesn’t cure Jewishness for the Nazi eye) and indicted as, in the end, his lofty notions do not prevent his own theories from being used to develop the atom bomb. Sorry if I’m spoiling anything.

“Einstein’s Gift” is a play about ideas and is at times fairly on-the-nose with its moralizing. But the story, of Haber’s brilliance, his inventions, his decline into careerism, his losses, and slow realization of his own obligations in the world, moves inexorably forward to make the point.

The cast on the whole did well with the material, though Einstein (Wicke) came off a bit more like Mark Twain in his soliloquizing. The dialogue was a bit hard to hear due to machine background noise. The production was otherwise a basic one-set with a few effective light and sound FX.einstein's gift2

Without much need for adornment, this satisfying production takes the Athenaeum Theatre stage through August 28.

Presented by Genesis Theatrical Productions

Einstein’s Gift

Athenaeum Theatre  2936 N. Southport

einstein'sgift4Performances as follows:

Thursdays:     7:30pm

Fridays:          7:30pm

Saturdays:      7:30pm

Sundays:         3:00pm

Price: $30

Box Office: 773-935-6875

www.athenaeumtheatre.com

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Einstein’s Gift”

Leave a Comment

More from category

“Fantastic Super Great Nation Numer Uno” 41st Revue at Second City ETC
“Fantastic Super Great Nation Numer Uno” 41st Revue at Second City ETC

Recommended *** One of the problems I imagine Second City has come up against, of late, is coming up with new [Read More]

” 30th Young Playwrights Festival” reviewed by Carol Moore
” 30th Young Playwrights Festival” reviewed by Carol Moore

Highly Recommended ****     The first time I went to see the Young Playwrights Festival, I didn’t know what to [Read More]

“The Dining Room”
“The Dining Room”

Recommended *** For those of you familiar with the intimate Glenview “storefront”, Oil Lamp Theater, you [Read More]

“Phedre”  reviewed by Jacob Davis
“Phedre” reviewed by Jacob Davis

Highly Recommended **** Jean Racine’s 1677 tragedy Phédre is remembered as the epitome of not only his career, but [Read More]

“The Signal” (A Doo-Wop Rhapsody) onstage
“The Signal” (A Doo-Wop Rhapsody) onstage

Highly Recommended **** Don’t say you weren’t told about the Doo-Wop show that was heading to Munster. I [Read More]