Isaac’s Eye Review – Theater at Its Best

In its Midwest premiere at Writer’s Theatre, Isaac’s Eye, by Lucas Hnath, directed by Artistic Director, Michael Halberstam, is definitely theatre at its best.  Given the perfect venue of the intimate space at Books on Vernon, a set that was at once static and dynamic, actors who held their characters to perfection, language that is current but rhythmic, and movement that was always balanced, the result was a compelling, fascinating and mind expanding experience.

 

The audience is given the task of keeping truth from fiction, something scientists, too, struggle with. Some things that are true are that both Hooke and Newton were part of The Royal Society.  Both of these men have their names associated with scientific laws.  They did not like each other.

The audience is introduced to four characters: the narrator (LaShawn Banks) who guides us along, moving in and out of the play, Isaac Newton  ((Jürgen Hooper), Robert Hooke (Marc Grapey) and a woman, Catherine (Elizabeth Ledo).  To help the audience keep score regarding what is the truth, notes are written on a black board and those items are true.  However, the story that reveals itself to us is so fascinating, truth doesn’t seem very important.  In fact in this story, the audience finds characters to whom they can relate and the scientific brilliance of the giants, moves into the background.

 

Lucas Hnath’s play in which the story is told of a young Isaac Newton, who once inserted a long needle “between my eye and the bone, as near to the backside of my eye as I could”, takes an approach that is creative and original.  I found it fascinating that while the feel of England around 1665 (during the time of the Plague) was maintained, the language was contemporary and made ideas and feelings the characters presented very accessible.

 

I was also amused because having been to Cambridge, England recently, seen Trinity College and the Mathematical Bridge attributed to Newton, as well as being aware of Hooke since he is important to my husband’s research, I thought I was primed for a play about these two men.  I could have parked all this at the door because the play developed a world of its own that transcended these facts and developed a battle of intellects and egos that pulses with wit, humor and tension.  The way in which the playwright uncovers (and invents) the motivations that drove a young farm boy to become one of the greatest thinkers in human history is brilliant.

 

The design team includes: Collette Pollard(Scenic Designer), Jenny Mannis (Costume Designer), Keith Parham (Lighting Designer), Mikhail Fiksel (Sound Designer), D.J. Reed (Props Designer) and David Castellanos (Stage Manager).

 

The venue was particularly significant.  In the intimate space the acting was very nuanced so that facial expressions and subtle body movements could be detected.

 

Some additional questions arise such as:  Is intellect God given or experiential? What kind of experimentation is moral? Does the end justify the means? This play is wonderful theatre and offers no end of possibilities for discussion.

 

 

Notes of Interest:

As construction begins on the new theatre center on Tudor Court, the 2014/15 season will celebrate the Theatre’s roots with two productions in the intimate, 60-seat Books on Vernon space (Isaac’s Eye and The Diary of Anne Frank) and a site-specific production (Doubt: A Parable) in the library of the Glencoe Union Church.

 

Lucas Hnath is one of the country’s exciting young playwrights.  He was recently the toast of the Humana Festival of New Plays and he was recently part of Victory Gardens Theater’s Ignition Festival.  Another of his plays, Death Tax, will be playing simultaneously at Lookingglass Theatre Company.  Lucas is expected to visit Chicago for the two productions.

 

 

RIDE METRA TO WRITERS THEATRE

In an effort to promote taking public transit to the Theatre, Writers Theatre launched a new promotion in 2013. Any audience member who purchases a ticket to a Writers Theatre production and rides Metra’s Union Pacific North Line to the Theatre may snap a photo of themselves on the train and post it to their Facebook page or Twitter feed with a tag of @writerstheatre and #[the title of the show], and upon showing the post at the Writers Theatre Box Office, receive $5 in cash (in essence, paying the cost of the train ride from Downtown ($4.75).

 

This promotion is available for a limited time only, and may end without warning. Ticket must have been paid for in advance. Not valid on comp tickets. More information available at writerstheatre.org/metra

 

 

Schedule:         Tuesdays: 7:30pm

                        Wednesdays: 7:30pm (with select 2:00pm matinees)

                        Thursdays & Fridays: 8:00pm 

                        Saturdays: 4:00pm and 8:00pm

                        Sundays: 2:00pm and 6:00pm

             

Location:         Books on Vernon, 664 Vernon Ave, Glencoe. 

Prices:            Prices for all performances range from $35 - $75

                       Purchase early for best prices

           

Box Office:        The Box Office is located at 321 Park Avenue, Glencoe;

                        847-242-6000; Writerstheatre website

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Brosilow

 

 

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