Whad’ya think? That it’s so easy to be a genius. That one day you wake up from a nap and see e=mcfloating before your eyes. To see the trauma that preceded that equation, go see Einstein! researched, written and performed by Jack Fry ― selected as one of the top ten shows of the 2016 New York Fringe Festival and rightly so. Jack Fry even brings young Einstein back from the beyond, presumably with knowledge of “God’s thoughts. The rest is just details,” and tells the harrowing story of Einstein’s life as a young scientist, his battles for scientific acceptance, his distress as a young husband married to wrong woman, and his struggles as a young father, all gleamed from Jack Fry’s extensive exploration into the recently released cache of 15,000 documents about this bona fide genius which allowed Fry to transform one of the most intriguing icons of all time into a living, breathing soul. Fry also portrays the nine characters who helped or thwarted Einstein between the years of 1905 and 1921 when Einstein endured a 16 year journey between his theories of special and general relativity, years dotted with considerable equation tweaking before his work ushered in our modern technological age and changed the way we live our lives today.
Those years were not great years for Einstein. The Great War had upset his world, his colleagues were attempting to steal his theories. Fortunately they were not brilliant enough to prove them. He was isolated because of his pacifist views. He had found a new inamorata and was struggling with his wife over a divorce. He was in failing health. Then there’s the huge scientific backlash, anti-Semitism, thoughts of suicide, his own self-destructive genius, his young son fighting for his father’s affection and attention. That’s enough shturm under drang to make even a lesser man’s hair “crazy” and prematurely turn it white.
Even God seemed against Einstein as year after year he awaited reports of a photo taken by an expedition during a solar eclipse that would show that his suppositions were true, that a comparison of non-eclipse and eclipse photos confirm that when the sun was blocked by the moon during an eclipse, so it was no longer the brightest object in the sky, the light of more distant stars could be seen being bent by the sun, as Einstein theorized? Finally, after years when the eclipses were covered by clouds, in 1919 a photo was taken that confirmed Einstein’s theory. And just this year, one hundred years after Einstein declared it, the final facet of his theory was proven: that gravitational waves ― ripples in space-time ― were created by the merging of two black holes.
Jack Fry’s Einstein is both intriguing and amusing. His Einstein plays the fiddle. He’s distressed by the downside of celebrity, i.e. tee-shirts on with his likeness on them, and even worse, bobble-head dolls of him. For me the most interesting thing about Einstein was his tremendous confidence in his work. In their 1919 divorce settlement, he agreed to give his estranged wife all of his Nobel Prize money. Why’s that a display of confidence. Einstein didn’t know he was getting the Nobel Prize until 1921.
The theater in which Einstein! is being performed is in a marvelously tacky East Village basement. It holds about 50 people and serves drinks before and after the show. The theater may be on the Fringe, but the production is not. Fry is an endearing performers with precise and changing expressions and accents. He interacts with the audience, even feeding them Lorna Doone cookies.
Granted, Einstein accused my husband Alvin, that long-suffering saint sitting in the first row, of sleeping through most of his performance. A vile calumny! Alvin, who has slept through many more expensive theatrical productions, was wide-awake through the entire 80 minutes! My other companion, The Amazing Kreskin, had not only done extensive research on Einstein’s life, but had also been a fellow guest on a radio show with Jack Fry several years earlier. After placing his index finger on Fry’s forehead for 20 seconds, Kreskin swears he knows exactly what Einstein was thinking. However neither the mentalist Kreskin or Fry/Einstein remembered the show they remembered being on together had been on the Joey Reynolds Show, a late night talk show which I produced.