Einstein, A Stage Portrait by Willard Simms
Performed and Directed by Tom Schuch
MTS Center for Theater, Albuquerque, NM
Tom Schuch, who portrays Albert Einstein in the MTS production of "Einstein: A Stage Portrait" is clearly an actors actor. Not only is this obvious from his impressive program bio with stage, tv and theater credits over many years, but from his presence when he first walks onstage in character.
He embodies a certain comfort onstage that few actors ever really achieve. But when it happens it is wonderful to watch. Because of this level of comfort in his craft, he is relatively un-self conscious onstage and the Einstein he portrays is multi-faceted. And not just because the script "calls for it" but because the actor is able to discover unique and particular moments.
Overall, Tom Schuch's portrayal of Einstein is quite believable and also unexpectedly charming. This Einstein is quite playful and laments the fact that he was not a musician. He speaks of going for ice cream with his son and of an uncle who teaches his to do algebraic equations with an intriguing and playful approach.
Both my companion and I were enjoying the first act, though nothing mind-blowing had happened when intermission arrived.
However, in Act 2, when the character of Einstein recalled his experience with the Nazi's, his panicked letter to Roosevelt about the German's technology and the race for the bomb, I sat up and took note.
The most powerful moment in the play for me had to do with a re-occurring dream Albert had that had to do with his anguish over the fact that his discoveries had been crucial to the technology that created the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Einstein was a pacifist and in many ways a spiritualist, though an unconventional one. At heart he was a deeply caring human who also happened to be one of the great minds of the time. One realizes that to live with the torment of offering ones gifts to the world only to see them mis-used is a morality tale quite appropriate for our own times.
The writing in the production was an excellent match to the acting. I have to say that as a solo performance director myself, I would have liked to see the show run straight through without an intermission. The intermission was a break in the flow for me and I think that the emotional build-up is slightly truncated by having that break. The power and intensity of having the actor speak straight through would have been welcomed in my book.
Other than that, I found it to be a timely and important story to hear at this time in our own history. The humanity in his story was poignant and heartening.
In a talk-back with the audience after the show, the actor shared his plans to tour with this show. I think it would be a particularly powerful show for young people including high school and college students to see. The message is clear and it has a certain grace and poetry when spoken from the old scientist's heart.