The Effect

by Wickham Boyle

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday March 23, 2016

The Effect

We all know someone, or multiple someones who are taking medication to relieve anxiety, depression, or low productivity. The airwaves, print pages and adverts tout both the miraculous advantages of these drugs and yet end with a salvo of horrifying side effects. The effects and side effects of mood-altering prescriptions in their nascent stages is the subject of the wonderfully talented Lucy Prebble's new play, "The Effect."

Prebble gave us the wise, but perhaps overwrought "Enron" and she seems to have pared down her newest work to great advantage.

"The Effect," which premiered in London in 2012, is about a four-week clinical drug trial, focusing on two subjects and the two doctors administering the test. At the core of the work is whether the young man Tristan, played by Carter Hudson and young woman, Connie, portrayed by Susannah Flood, have actually fallen in love or is it the work of the unnamed drug that has left them "bewitched, bothered and bewildered."

The energy, acting chops and yes, chemistry between Tristan and Connie is so palpable that it lights up the intimate stage, with a great clinical, yet flexible set by Marsha Ginsberg and projections and lights, by Maya Ciarrocchi and Tyler Micoleau respectively. All combine to illuminate time passing, dosage and romance.

This hapless duo of students signed up to be isolated from the world and fed increasingly high dosages of a drug that increases the dopamine levels in the brain. This sends them on a wild, romantic ride. They don't know what is real and what is induced. They attempt to find out who is getting a placebo and who is really in love and parsing if in fact any of that matters.

Coupled to the young lovers is the subtext of the two scientists who at one point were also romantically involved. The lead scientist, played with a deft touch by Steve Key, reached out to his former colleague Dr. Lorna James who, as embodied by Kati Brazda, brings a bravura glow to her performance. We watch as the two doctors dispassionately discuss the symptoms of love and monitor heart rates and flushed skin, when in the end love is ephemeral and so difficult to categorize, clutch and maintain.

The play moves at a great pace covering a wealth of subjects from our belief that drugs can solve and save any problem, to what is or is not real in our modern lives. The success of much of this is due to the inspired direction of David Comer whose work has a tension and emotionality that is leagues ahead of most other directors.

"The Effect" runs through September 4 at Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow St. in New York. For information or tickets, call 212-243-6262 or visit http://www.barrowstreettheatre.com/what-s-on/the-effect