The Life and Times of A. Einstein
one act play written and performed by Kres Mersky
directed by Paul Gersten
through May 16
It is no small feat to recreate a genius and even more challenging to fashion the man's personal assistant, the woman who ran his life, especially when so little is known about her. Nonetheless, Kres Mersky has achieved a comedic & dramatic tour de force with her solo play The Life and Times of A. Einstein.
Alone to fend off the press, Ellen Schoenhammer, a German Jewish woman who is loyal to a fault and definitely a no nonsense task master, manages quite well to entertain while she excuses Professor Einstein's tardiness from his prior symposiums.
As a writer, Mersky makes the secretary's statements terribly funny, and as an actress conveys them with a sparkling caustic wit. She warns members of the press not to ask him to explain that (of course, referring to his Theory of Relativity), and then matter of factly concludes: "He'll tell you anyway!" She denies understanding much of it and then offers a layman's view that is at once understatedly sensible and undeniably amusing.
There are three conferences, covering a period of over twenty years in the life of this woman. Einstein, of course, is only present in spirit. The last, in 1955, is the most poignant, as Schoenhammer announces Einstein's passing. She never has to tell us about how rewarding her life has been. It shows in her every gesture, facial expression and the manner in which she simply talks about her boss - his face, his big toes (barefoot in sandals), his handling of her when she challenges his theory of light: "Ellen, you need a vacation!" and his insecurity with his inconclusive United Field Theory: "Am I a fool?" We come to know Einstein through Ellen's bright gleaming eyes and intense adoration.
Mersky's performance, under Paul Gersten's perfectly paced direction, simply glows with warmth and sincerity, laced with an abundance of charm ...and love. She makes us see how much this sturdy woman loved her job - and the man himself. "Not the Lord, but he may be the closest thing to it!"
You need not have a passion for science or even Einstein, but if you want to witness how one human being can be thoroughly devoted to another, then you do not want to miss The Life and Times of A. Einstein or Kres Mersky's outstandingly meticulous performance.
5 out of 5 stars
Runs in rep with Acting The First Six Lessons. Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm @ Theatre West, through May 16.