By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
photo by Ryan Phillips Fagan
Bottom row, Tristan (Steve Wood) and Connie (Emilee Foster) hope for happiness in a pill as (top row) Dr. Sealey (Jon Thuerbach) and Dr. James (Avis Judd) take notes.
Live Theatre Workshop has thrown down the challenge to Tucson – give your brain something serious to think about this summer.
Sure, we are between school semesters, and what student doesn't love the thrill of a summer love?
But this time British playwright Lucy Prebble has upped the ante of amour. For “The Effect” she dips her pen into a pool of brain chemistry, pondering what might happen if someone combined true love and real drugs.
Maryann Green as director of the LTW production has Steve Wood and Emilee Foster playing depression drug study volunteers Tristan and Connie.
The first act has barely started when rambunctious and bearded Tristan declares his love for Connie, a more proper though fidgety lass who already has an older gentleman in her life anyway.
Although Connie does admit, against all odds, that she somehow feels a twinge of affection for Tristan.
So, is it real or is it Memorex?
If the depression drug both are taking for the study is supposed to make them feel happy, wouldn't that feeling also mimic falling in love?
And wouldn't falling in love also disqualify both subjects from further participation in the study?
Aha! Prebble thought of that, too.
Also in the cast are Avis Judd and Jon Thuerbach as a pair of docs – Lorna James and Toby Sealey.
Dr. Sealey is the one officially in charge. So what if those two young people think are in love. He wants to complete this study with a positive result. That's where the real money is.
Dr. James has had some mental problems of her own in the past, including an affair with Dr. Sealey. She wants the study to be ethically sound, but she mustn't question the doctor. If he decided to put a black mark on her record, it would be the end of her career.
“The Effect” lays out a full table options, but always allows plenty of room for everyone to make their own choices.
Are emotions just chemical reactions? Are the chemicals that occur naturally in our brains somehow more valid? Have vegetarians altered their natural personalities just by what they eat?
And how real does real love have to be, anyway?
Green has balanced her cast fairly well. Wood is particularly good at capturing the erratic behavior of Tristan.
Judd and Thuerback convey the cold and calculating professional attitude of the doctors so well, it is easy to imagine they may have once admired each other.
Throughout this two-hander there is enough quipish humor to lighten the discussions about personality being just a byproduct of chemical reactions, either in the brain or in that cup of pills. Sometimes these discussions start to sound too much like lectures, but not to worry. These theater veterans keep the action moving.
After the play plan on continuing the conversation on the drive home or in a thoughtful restaurant along the way.
“The Effect” continues through August 25 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, in Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. Running time is about two hours.
Tickets are $15 Thursdays, $20 all others, with discounts available. For details and reservations, 327-4242, or visit livetheatreworkshop.org