BWW Review: THE EFFECT Delivers A Powerful Message Powerfully Performed
Set in a drug study lab at Rauschen Pharmaceuticals, where volunteers are taking the experimental antidepressant RLU37; THE EFFECT, a new play by Lucy Prebble, examines two couples and the effects this new drug has on them. The play is not only a powerful and darkly funny indictment of Big Pharma, this ultimately deeply moving play examines such topics as sanity and neurology while also looking into such ideas as fate, and touching on the inevitability of physical attraction in a closed environment. The final question you are left with is who is really in charge of your destiny. Is it you or is it your brain? Prebble has written a very intelligent play that manages quite successfully to walk the thin line between comic and tragic. She is looking squarely at the question of what makes us who we are. This is black comedy of the highest order which requires skilled performers and a skilled director to pull off successfully. Happily, this production has those necessities in spades.
Two young volunteers, Tristan (Delante G. Keys) and Connie (Sarah Danko), have agreed to take part in a drug trial for this new antidepressant. Tristan and Connie rapidly find themselves attracted to one another, which threatens to invalidate the study, much to the frustration of the clinician and manufacturer involved.
Director Lily Wolff has done a superb job with this production. It moves fluidly to a shocking conclusion, with lightning fast scene changes and consistently beautiful stage pictures. She has a definite flair for cinematically written theatre. Lowell Bartholomee's sound and video design beautifully support the action and are almost characters in the piece themselves, imparting important information and underscoring the work emotionally. They work seamlessly with Mark Pickell's smart sterile lab environment. Patrick Anthony gives us yet another exceptional lighting design that uses the blank palette of the set to maximum effect. I especially appreciated his gobo work in the abandoned section of the facility discovered by the young couple.
Keys and Danko are superb as the lovestruck volunteers. Both give us physically electrifying and emotionally volatile performances of great range. Every bit as riveting are Rebecca Robinson as the psychiatrist, with her exquisite comedic timing and deadpan delivery masking the inner turbulence she hides behind her bedside manner. A great deal of this gets triggered by the demeanor of Rommel Sulit's nicely detailed manager. There is a clear chemistry between Robinson and Sulit that pays off in extremely satisfying ways as the play progresses.
As I have stated before, Capital T has a real gift for producing black comedy, and THE EFFECT is yet another gem to add to their crown. I always know when I go to see one of their productions that I am going to be highly entertained and will have much to digest and consider long after the show is over.
I highly recommend THE EFFECT. This is a show with a powerful message that is powerfully performed and will make you both laugh and be deeply moved.
THE EFFECT by Lucy Prebble
Running Time: Two Hours, including one intermission.
THE EFFECT, produced by Capital T Theatre at Hyde Park Theatre (511 West 43rd Street, Austin, TX, 78751). Thursdays-Saturdays, May 25 - June 17, 2017.
Tickets start at $20 for general admission. Available at: https://secure.buyplaytix.com/capitalt/reserve/the_effect_by_lucy_prebble.html