Off-Broadway Theater Review: THE EFFECT (Barrow Street Theatre)

by Dmitry Zvonkov on March 28, 2016

in Theater-New York

Post image for Off-Broadway Theater Review: THE EFFECT (Barrow Street Theatre)

THE EFFECT OF GREAT THEATER

In Lucy Prebble’s captivating two-act, The Effect, crisply directed by David Cromer, 20-somethings Connie (Susannah Flood) and Tristan (Carter Hudson) meet as test subjects in a clinical study of a new anti-depressant. On the surface it seems they would make an unlikely couple — he’s an unemployed free spirit with an unkempt beard, she’s a well-groomed psychology student involved with a much older man — yet immediately there is a spark. But as they start falling in love over the course of the study a question arises: Are they really in love or is the drug simply making them feel like they are?

Susannah Flood, George Demas, Kati Brazda, Carter Hudson in THE EFFECT (photo by Matthew Murphy) Susannah Flood and Carter Hudson in THE EFFECT (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Exploring notions of consciousness and identity as they relate to the chemistry in our brains, Ms. Prebble takes us on a breathless ride that is emotionally satisfying and philosophically compelling. Are we the sum of our parts or is there more to us? Do our memories define who we are? Does being in love trigger chemical reactions that make us feel a certain way? Or do chemical reactions within us make us experience feelings which we identify as “being in love?”

Kati Brazda and Steve Key in THE EFFECT (photo by Matthew Murphy)Carter Hudson in THE EFFECT (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The debate, which Ms. Prebble takes care to keep personal, and which expands to include issues of efficacy and ethics of psychotropic drugs, the value of negative emotions, the definition of depression, is furthered by Dr. Lorna James (Kati Brazda), the skeptical psychiatrist administering the study, whose emotional investment in her duties appears to be related to her enigmatic relationship with her boss, Dr. Toby Sealey (Steve Key).

Carter Hudson and Susannah Flood star in THE EFFECT (photo by Matthew Murphy) Carter Hudson & Susannah Flood in THE EFFECT (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Mr. Cromer elicits sharp, dynamic performances from the excellent cast — on the night I attended the well-deserved applause continued into a second curtain call. And Marsha Ginsberg’s spare hospital set, with its big open sterile space, serves well to amplify the characters’ emotional struggles and vulnerabilities. And although I’m not certain that in the end Ms. Prebble supplies the most complete responses to the unsolvable problems she introduces, her dramatic exploration of her subjects is both riveting and fascinating, and leaves one with a lingering feeling of satisfaction.

Carter Hudson and Susannah Flood in THE EFFECT (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Kati Brazda in THE EFFECT (photo by Matthew Murphy)photos by Matthew Murphy

The Effect
Barrow Street Theatre
27 Barrow St at 7th Ave
ends on June 19, 2016
EXTENDED to September 4, 2016
for tickets, call 212.243.6262
or visit Barrow Street Theatre

Leave a Comment