The Firehall Arts Centre & Gateway Theatre Co-production
Einstein's Gift


by Vern Thiessen

Dates & Venues Firehall Arts Centre, Vancouver on 7-23 January & Gateway Theatre, Richmond on 4-19 February Reviewer Jane Penistan

 

 

 

Director Donna Spencer Choreographer Michel Guimond Fight choreographer Nicholas Harrison Set design Phillip Tidd Costume design Rebekka Sorensen Music and sound design Ted Hamilton Lighting James Proudfoot Stage Manager Angela Beaulieu  

 


Einstein and Haber

This is a very thought-provoking play by a Canadian dramatist. Vern Thiessen presents the lifework and achievements of Fritz Haber, a German chemist, set against the rise and fall of Germany at the turn of the 20th century and later the rise of the German Reich. It is also the story of the chemist's relationship and friendship with the renowned physicist Albert Einstein. Though some of the history is fictionalized, for dramatic effect, the essential horror of the misuse of science and the glorification of excessive patriotism are painfully emphasized. The compromising of morals for political ends is also discussed.

A geometrical, almost colourless, multi-level set provides the stark background for a purely impersonal scientific discussion. The warmth of the intimate scenes between characters and the horrifying battle episodes are brilliantly illuminated by technically intricate use of lighting, enhanced by music and sound.

As F. J. Haber, Ron Halder is determinedly disciplined and an enthusiastic young academic chemist, intent on becoming a recognized authority in his field. His philosophy also includes the use of research in chemistry to be applied to the betterment of the human race. An arrogant man, his vision is impaired by his nationalism and ambition, and he fails to see what the outcome of the use of his discoveries will be. Nor can he believe that a ruling government will undervalue his past services and achievements, to the extent that he will be stripped of his authority and exiled from his beloved homeland.

The more gentle and infinitely stronger and wiser Einstein is incomparably played by David Adams. The warmth and humanity of this performance are impeccable.

 


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Otto, Haber's research assistant, and later a Nazi convert is competently portrayed by Daniel Arnold. He is the go-between between Haber and Einstein, and learns much from his observation of both men. He sees his chance to become a personality under the new regime, and forsakes Haber, informing against him to his new masters.

Clara, Haber's first wife is also a scientist, the first woman to present a scientific paper to a German learned society, and in Latin to boot, is Kathleen Duborg As the much put upon assistant to her husband, she sees what the outcome of his involvement with the military will be. Her fears rejected by her husband, disillusioned at the turn of events, she commits suicide with his army pistol.

Charming and fun loving, Lotta, Haber's second wife, is played with insight and intelligence by Sarah Donald. This performance lightens the dark second act.

Other smaller roles are taken by Douglas Herbert and Raugi Yu. While they distinguish between their different characters, they lack the precision, stance and heel clicking of the Nazi soldiers they present. In such a good production, this lack of attention to detail stands out, to the detriment of the brutality and inhumanity of these scenes.

Apart from this, the direction is deeply insightful and intelligent, with all the conflicting emotions, cruelty, horror, love, humanity and the infinite capacity for compassion in the human condition well realized.

2005 Jane Penistan


 


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