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Off-Broadway Review: “Einstein’s Dreams” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday December 15, 2019)

Off-Broadway Review: “Einstein’s Dreams” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday December 15, 2019)
Book and Lyrics by Joanne Sydney Lessner
Music and Lyrics by Joshua Rosenblum
Directed by Cara Reichel
Based on the novel by Alan Lightman
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

There is no denying that a retrospect on of the life of Albert Einstein and the development of his renowned Theory of Relativity would be compelling and extremely interesting. To present this study in the form of musical theatre is a challenging and difficult task that requires a keen intellectual and creative perspective. The discerning approach to this undertaking used by Prospect Theater Company in the new musical “Einstein’s Dreams” is to present an adaptation of Alan Lightman’s bestselling novel of the same name. Consequently, the outcome is contrived, bewildered, somewhat controlled, and struggles to find a distinct artistic translation to deliver the character of Einstein or the importance of his discovery.

The plot revolves around a young Albert Einstein (an engaging Zal Owen) working as a clerk in a patent office in the early years of the twentieth century evaluating new patent applications. His work and intelligence are underappreciated by his priggish boss Klausen (a staunch Michael McCoy). Albert’s marriage is having problems and he consistently falls asleep when working late at the office to avoid returning home. In his dreams he meets and falls in love with the enigmatic Josette (a zealous Alexandra Silber) who guides him through his discovery of time in reference to relativity. Besso (a charming Brennan Caldwell) is the friend and co-worker who helps him navigate reality. The even keel secretary Marta (a pleasant Tess Primack) and the conscientious assistant to the boss, Hilda (a distinguished Stacia Fernandez) all show concern for the young Einstein. Every time Einstein meets Josette in his dreams, he comes closer to discovering his renowned theory of relativity.

The thin book and simple lyrics are credited to Joanne Sydney Lessner and although serviceable, are lackluster and at times trite. The music created by Joshua Rosenblum is lush and emotive but is mostly derivative. Isabel Mengyuan Le provides a sleek, attractive and effective two-level set. Costume design by Sidney Shannon depicts the period attractively. The projections designed by David Bengali are absolutely stunning and lighting by Herrick Goldman is moody and atmospheric complimenting every scene. The orchestrations by Mr. Rosenblum and Tim Peierls are gorgeous and executed by the six-piece orchestra with deft precision. Director Cara Reichel constantly distracts from the significant content with the choice of erratic and quirky movement of hands and arms by the ensemble and fails to instill an emotional depth in the characters.

The cast rounded out with Vishal Vaidya, Lisa Helmi Johanson and Talia Cosentino are fully competent and vocally accomplished although voices have some difficulty blending in duets. The highlight of the show is the wonderful song “I Will Never Let You Go” delivered with clarity and emotion by Ms. Primack.
This present incarnation is an admirable attempt but needs some adjusting and fine tuning. It just seems that the intent overshadows the content.

EINSTEIN’S DREAMS

Zal Owen plays Einstein. Joining him in the cast are Brennan Caldwell, Talia Cosentino, Stacia Fernandez, Lisa Helmi Johanson, Michael McCoy, Tess Primack, Alexandra Silber, and Vishal Vaidya.

The design team is Isabel Le (scenic design); Sidney Shannon (costume design); Herrick Goldman (lighting design); Kevin Heard (sound design) and David Bengali (projection design). The Production Stage Manager is Elizabeth Ann Goodman.

“Einstein’s Dreams” plays at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison) through Sunday December 15, 2019 on the following performance schedule: Tuesday – Friday at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. For schedule adjustments, visit https://www.59e59.org/ and to purchase tickets, call the 59E59 Box Office at 646-892-7999 or
visit the website. The running time is 95 minutes, including intermission.

Photo: Alexandra Silber, Zal Owen, Michael McCoy, Tess Primack, Vishal Vaidya, Lisa Helmi Johanson in “Einstein’s Dreams” at 59E59 Theaters. Credit: Richard Termine.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Thursday, November 21, 2019