Jewish Journal


March 22, 2010

Peacenik Einstein and the Nuke Fluke


“Peacenik Einstein and the Nuke Fluke”  by Melanie Chartoff

As a fledging playwright always sniffing around for juicy moral dilemmas, one great paradox in one great man’s life has always attracted me.

A pacifist/physicist’s knowledge that the atom would soon be split for purposes of furthering fascism, suggested that same exploitation to a standing U.S. President by our scientists for purposes of preserving Democracy. As German scientists furthered nuclear fission based on that physicist’s own theories, he uncharacteristically encouraged America’s unleashing a monster that holds the world prisoner today, encouraging war to keep the peace. And he spent the rest of his life regretfully backpedaling and arguing against his own human fit of pique.

Albert Einstein, fine minded and occasionally funny genius, physicist, Zionist, peacemaker, deemed traitor and defeatist by the German government, idol by ours, would’ve been one hundred thirty one years old last week. He’s been gone fifty-five years as of April 18th, but still he captivates minds and audiences everywhere.  Exploited in Apple ads, satirized in films and commercials, sanitized in floating photos seen on many screen savers, a few of his many facets will now grace our stages by means of two playwrights in two up and coming theater productions here in Los Angeles.  WIll one of them cash in on my not so original idea? Probably both, so I’m attending to see if there’s anything left for me to say.

Internationally heralded, political playwright Donald Freed’s “The Einstein Plan,” at Los Angeles Theater Center’s reborn facility, has only two performances scheduled at the present time, March 27th at 8, March 28th at 3. (Go quickly to latc.org for tickets.)

Mr. Freed’s project takes a radical, movement-encouraging approach to Einstein’s dilemma of how to be aggressive in a way meant not to antagonize but to heal. It will animate Albert’s “2% Plan” for peaceful protest being able to affect government change in Act 1, then, in Act 2, give the audience an opportunity to vocally participate in solutions to this nation’s most pressing problems in an interactive improvisation. It’s experimental theater at its most cutting edge starring…us, plus esteemed film and stage actor James Cromwell as “The Exile” who explains Einstein’s premise.  Here’s my chance to be part of that paradox, if not as a playwright, as a participant.  So I’m putting my money where my imagination already was.

Then, opening April 10th at Theatre West, Kres Mersky will tell a tale of “The Life and Times of A. Einstein” from the standpoint of his long time secretary Ellen.  (Go to theatrewest.org for tickets)  She has both written and stars in the piece, much like she told a tale of Isadora Duncan some years back by embodying the innovative dancer in a piece that still tours the U.S.  Never a dull moment simply sitting passively in Los Angeles theater these days, as live theater competes with computer games. In her rendering, we again are not inert bystanders. In the piece, it’s Albert’s birthday. We play the press being advised how to best question the genius, and, in her explanations, discover much more of the human about him, his theory of relativity made colloquial and humorous in her telling, as well as her feelings for him.

Here’s a juicy moral conflict. Can a neophyte playwright fritter away her desire for creating high quality theater by attending high quality plays rather than writing them? With such fine offerings on one of my favorite subjects, I’m taking the risk.



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