Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 9, 2016


TheaterWorks, Hartford, CT
through November 26, 2016
by Shera Cohen

Richard Dreyfuss
A few years ago, I discovered a little theatre located on a side street in downtown Hartford. The venue is not typical; audience members enter through an art gallery, walk a long staircase, then to seats and stage surrounded by metal poles. This is TheaterWorks. Its current play, “Relativity,” is “little” at 85 minutes and three characters. This is where to find a triumvirate of talent: renowned actor Richard Dreyfuss, creative director Rob Ruggiero, and flawless playwright Mark St. Germain.

With a title like “Relativity,” it’s not surprising that Albert Einstein is its central character. To a large degree, the word “relativity” delves into Einstein’s family rather than science; in other words, his relatives. His wives, sons, daughter, grandchildren – who would have thought that geniuses like Einstein also have mundane lives? We watch a journalist’s interview with the famous man. The clue comes immediately when she questions Einstein about his first wife and his sons – this is no ordinary interviewer asking very personal questions.

“Relativity,” one of St. Germain’s fictionalized biographies succeeds, as all his works do, as a dramedy. An unfolding mystery evolves. More important are conflicting questions of greatness for mankind vs goodness for one’s small world of family.
Credit to the audience that did not applaud when Dreyfuss first appeared onstage. Oftentimes, famous actors are acknowledged simply because they are well-known. Dreyfuss, disheveled and sporting the iconic hairdo, immediately becomes Einstein. Dreyfuss portrays the scientist as steadfast and egotistical. Yet, we can see the wheels turning in his head, as Einstein questions if goodness and selfishness can possibly go hand in hand, even for him. Dreyfuss is as brilliant an actor as his character is a scientist.

Christa Scott-Reed, the journalist, holds her own in the role of woman on an important mission. Verbal fisticuffs with Dreyfuss are an even match. Lori Wilner, the housekeeper, makes a formidable appearance in a role that helps define her friend/employer more than herself.

Director Rob Ruggiero (who wears many creative hats at TheaterWorks) places every movement, moment, and word of dialog in unison. There is no waste. Masterful set designer Brian Prather provides a strewn-about private space with an always-closed door that the interviewer enters, somewhat at her own risk, and more at Einstein’s risk.

Unfortunately, the run of “Relativity” is just about sold out, even with two weeks added. But call the box office, just in case; there might be a seat for you.