When we hear the name Isaac Newton, we think “Gravity”! This is understandable as that is what he is known for. But, he may have been a discoverer of many other theories, or not! In Lucas Hnath’s, “Isaac’s Eye” ,now being performed at Writers Theatre, we get a glimpse of another side of this historical figure. First, let me say that Writers Theatre has started work on their new venue in beautiful downtown Glencoe (just a\south of Ravinia), so they only have their “storefront” location at Books On Vernon, for a while. For those of you new to Writers, they are a solid ensemble that brings the highest of quality to The North Shore, and have for many years. The theater in the back of the book store (one of the few left in today’s high-tech world), is quite intimate with around 42 seats placed so that each audience member feels like the “fly on the wall” we all hear about. They have done some new things like adding dressing rooms and a small lobby next to the actual theater portion of the store, so it appears different and larger.
The story that Hnath tells us is of a young Newton who has discovered what he thinks is his ticket into the highest of honors. He has written to the most notable of scientists, Robert Hooke Marc Grapey,who captures every role he takes on to perfection). Hooke, however, sees Newton as a threat, as he himself has been working on similar projects. Newton is played with great fervor and energy by Jurgen Hooper. Newton has a love interest, an older woman who has watched him grow into a man-Catherine (another incredible performance by Elizabeth Ledo). Catherine is ready to get married and have a child and as a teen, decided that Isaac would be her mate. During the story we also find that Hooke begins to desire Catherine so that he can settle down in his declining years.
The fourth actor in this smoothly directed (Michael Halberstam) is the always reliable LaShawn Banks as “The Actor”/Sam, our “narrator”. He is almost always onstage. He is there as an observer and as a very important part of the story that we are being told. Often, we learn, our story may be untrue, or then again, very true. That is what makes the piece fun to watch.This is a story of egos and the importance to each man to leave his mark for those who follow: as a child!; as a fact!; as a testament!.
Watching this saga unfold in the intimate space of the book store makes us feel much closer to the characters. The thought that Newton, in order to see how colors react, would indeed stick a needle into his eye is hard to swallow, and at first the mere discussion of this “test”/”Experiment” gave me a weird feeling, However, as played by this sterling cast, the actual test became second to the “needling” of the characters involved with Hooke being the stronger of the two men. As it turns out,however, Catherine may have been the strongest of the characters , getting all that she wanted, and then some!
How important is being a member of The Royal Academy to Newton? That is a major part of this play. The use of any tactic to do so, is what we see unveil. Blackmail is a major part of the story and all of the characters find their own uses of this terrible crime. It does not, however, feel wrong under the circumstances in the story being told- whether true or not! This makes for an enjoyable and entertaining two hours of theater. “Isaac’s Eye” will continue at Writers Theatre’s, Books on Vernon, located at 664 Vernon Avenue in Glencoe through December 7th with performances:
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays and Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 and 6 p.m.
There will be some special Wednesday 2 p.m. matinees- check with box office and website
To order tickets call 847-242-6000 , visit the actual Writers Theatre office 321 Park Avenue ( just around the corner) or visit www.writerstheatre.org
Tickets range from $35-$75 and due to the size of the theater, I suggest you not put off your purchase.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Isaac’s Eye”