Can a drug make you like somebody, despite of yourself? That is the premise of Lucy Prebble’s The Effect, now playing at The Barrow Street Theatre. This joint effort by The Barrow and the National Theatre of London is to be commended.
Two volunteers become involved in a trial involving a new drug that ups the dopamine levels. Connie (Susannah Flood,) a psychology student who is in a relationship meets the wild and carefree Tristan (Carter Hudson) as they become the lone two participants. Lorna (Kati Brazda) and Toby (Steve Key), are the doctors running the trial. This brings back old feelings from a short lived relationship that ended badly. Lorna, suffers from depression and as the plot unfold she becomes less clinical. Toby, is the pill-pushing pharmaceutical promoter who is not only using Connie and Tristan but supervising Lorna as well.
The forbidden romance between the Connie and Tristan is intense from the beginning and becomes comical, then tragic. As the dosage increases, so does the ways the lovers find at cheating the system.
David Cromer’s direction is smart, as he keeps this talky script from becoming overly boring. He finds a way to add tenderness, desolation and humor.
Prebble, a British playwright, has a lot to say and at times the script becomes a clinical textbook. Her writing succeeds when we scipt the clinical and go to the emotional.
There is a vulnerability that is effective in Susannah Flood and Carter Hudson’s performances. Ms. Brazda makes us think but also feel in her role that is a tough sell.
In an age where pill popping is the norm, The Effect as some food for thought.
The Effect: Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow St., until June 19th.