Pictured (l-r): Amy O’Connor, Manon Halliburton, and Rufus Burns. Photo by Cynthia Levin.
By Marie Warner
THE EFFECT is the story of Connie and Tristan, two participants in a clinical trial for a new anti-depressant. As they progress further into the trial, they find themselves increasingly drawn to each other and struggle to discern if their feelings are real or the result of the drugs they are taking.
That’s an oversimplification of this play, which asks questions about the nature of love and whether, as humans, we are merely slaves to chemical impulses. Lucy Prebble’s script is tight, and the premise and execution kept me engaged mentally and emotionally throughout.
Sidonie Garrett’s direction is well-paced and draws out exceptional performances. Amy O’Connor is by turns vulnerable, funny, and utterly charming. Rufus Burns brings a vibrant physicality, and he and O’Connor have fantastic chemistry. Todd Lanker as study director Dr. Toby Sealey is pompous and a little smarmy, but also finds moments of pathos. Manon Halliburton’s portrayal of the deeply conflicted Dr. James is powerful, and an excellent showcase of Halliburton’s control and range.
Emily Swenson’s design is simple but effective. I particularly relished Swenson and Alex Davila’s projection design. Notes from the clinical trial were projected onto the top of the stage, effectively showing the passing of time and additional details about the trial subjects.
Unicorn Theatre’s commitment to producing new works is unparalleled. This production of THE EFFECT is classic Unicorn. It’s a thought-provoking, relevant work that will stick with you long after the curtain call.
THE EFFECT runs through September 30th. For more information visit UnicornTheatre.org.