Northlight Theatre Brings Back Mike Nussbaum
Seizing the availability of 94 year-old Mike Nussbaum—one-time Artistic Director of the Northlight and reported by Actors Equity to be the oldest working actor on stages today— who takes on the Einstein role, Northlight Theatre gives us an imagined Albert Einstein, in his elder years. He is at Princeton, a long-established icon and rock star of science before the term “rock star” was known.
Into his life, and eventually into his study despite the best efforts of his housekeeper and protector (Ann Whitney as Helen Dukas), comes a younger woman (Katherine Keberlein as Margaret Hardling) intent on finding out things about him that others do not know, ostensibly for a story she is penning for a well-known Jewish interest publication.
Meet Einstein, the man
For the next hour+—time that seems to fly by—we learn secrets about Einstein’s personal life that catapult him from a Kantian category of pacifist/genius role model to that of pig, in 60’s+ common parlance.
RELATIVITY airs Einstein’s dirty laundry with a touch of WHODUNIT plot style. Unless you have seriously studied up on Einstein’s life story before this play, you too might find yourself exploring the Internet the day after seeing RELATIVITY to find out just how much of playwright Mark St. Germain’s script is true, apocryphal, or unleashed fictional imagination.
St. Germain storytelling style
For Chicago theater-goers who saw St. Germain’s earlier work also starring Mike Nussbaum, Freud’s Last Session, you will spot some similarities. Both of these scripts take on exposition to distill complex systems of thought —psychoanalytic theory in one; physics in another— that flirt with inserting a college lecture into the script. You may find reason to worry that the drama is going to fall in the ditch. In both cases however, that concern is short-lived, because St. Germain’s greater gift is in creating a plot zip that unveils the deeply textured realities below the theory-rich dialogue that will send your mind into instant replay to hear his lines anew.
St. Germain’s script, with the help of this most able cast directed by BJ Jones, is on some levels a cautionary tale about anyone’s presumption that they can take a true measure of the man. By what bar do we measure, and when? It’s all relative, St. Germain seems to say. For this boomer writer, this undressing of Einstein also reminds of the caption under the poster of Che Guevara with pie on his face that asks, “Is Nothing Sacred?”
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Now thru June 18
Wednesdays: 1:00 pm and 7:30 pm
Thursdays: 7:30 pm
Fridays: 8:00 pm
Saturdays: 2:30 pm and 8:00 pm
Sundays: 2:30 pm and June 4 7:00 pm
North Shore Center for the Performing Arts
9501 Skokie Blvd
Students - $15 (pending availability)
Available at the theater box office or by calling 847 673 6300 or on the Northlight website.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.