It is all relative

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Mike Nussbaum (Albert Einstein) and Katherine Keberlein (Margaret Harding) in 'Relativitiy' at Northlight Theatre. Michael Brosilow photo
Mike Nussbaum (Albert Einstein) and Katherine Keberlein (Margaret Harding) in ‘Relativitiy’ at Northlight Theatre.
Michael Brosilow photo

Theater-goers lucky enough to have seen Mark St. Germain’s ‘Freud’s Last Session’ at Mercury Theater when Mike Nussbaum took on the role of Freud (as of June 3, 2012) will have an idea of how Albert Einstein is portrayed in the world premiere of ‘Relativity’ at Northlight Theatre.

Once again, Nussbaum, now 93, is brilliant and St. Germain’s intelligent writing presents interesting insights into a world-renown, intellectual figure.

The story line revolves around a daughter born to him in 1902 by first wife Mileva Marić before the two were married. The world knew about his two sons born later, but not about daughter Lieserl until correspondence came to light in 1987.

What was known then was that Lieserl had contracted scarlet fever but no mention was made later about her. Although conceived in Switzerland where her parents were at the Zurich Polytechnic, Lieserl wasn’t brought back there to by her mother following the birth and Marić’s convalescence with her parents in Serbia.

St. Germain builds his new play on the premise that Lieserl survives.

Einstein is working at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study where his cantankerous housekeeper/secretary Helen Dukas, delightfully played by Chicago theater veteran Ann Whitney, protects him from interruptions by curiosity seekers and reporters.

Dukas successfully stops Margaret Harding, well depicted by Katherine Keberlein. The forty-something Harding who says she is a reporter from a Jewish publication finally waylays Einstein outside. Noting that it is cold he asks her in.

What follows are personal questions because Harding says her article will be different.

Using known quotes by Einstein, St. Germain has him field and rebuff Harding’s piercing questions about family, personal relations and views on mankind with statements about the importance of solving the mysteries of the universe.

Similar to ‘Freud’s Last Session’ where two protagonists, Freud and allegorist C. S. Lewis, argue their points of view, ‘Relativity’s  arguments, though more personal, are between Harding and the originator of the famous E=MC2 formula. Theories, including those in quantum physics are mentioned, but Harding’s arguments keep returning to the definition of a “great” person.

Directed by BJ Jones, the play is a fascinating, fictionalized, 80-minute look at Albert Einstein.
Details: Relativitiy’ is at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, through June 18, 2017. For tickets and other information call (847) 673-6300 and visit Northlight.

 

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