by Lucy Prebble
Directed by David Cromer
Barrow Street Theatre

Reviewed by David Spencer

I find it hard to judge the point of morality or message in The Effect, by Lucy Prebble, about a psychogenic drug testing program, taking place in an unspecified clinic, examining the effects of a new drug on—well, on  mental well-being. There’s the testing doctor, Lorna (Kati Brazda) who has her own history with depression, some of that perhaps tied up with her boss, Toby (Steve Key), all of which gets exacerbated by the trials conducted on two young adults, Connie and Tristan (Suzanna Flood and Carter Hudson), one of whom may be on a placebo, who shouldn’t be getting involved with each other, yet, of course, do.

It’s a well-worn dramatic trope to have a psychiatrist treat a patient whose outer pathology echoes his or her own inner demons (Equus by Peter Shaffer is arguably the best such example and almost certainly the most famous, if not the progenitor) and of course that’s a convenient way to provide an underlying dramatic thread; but again, it totally bollixes the purpose of the play, which would seem, on some level, to be an indictment of Big Drugs, since there’s data to suggest that psychotropic medicines often cause more harm than good, with test results only reliable in post-marketing trials, since so much pre-release data is fudged or hidden from general access. But that's not the impression left.

Instead, The Effect lands as a very well directed, very well-acted bit of propaganda that is every bit as deceptive as the clinical trial it dramatizes. Whether it’s effective drama on its own terms…that rather depends upon your alchemical response to the formula. My response? It ain’t dull, but for all the emotional angst expressed, I found it a cool affair, where one expects agit-prop theatre to stir up…well, something.

Go to David Spencer's Profile
Return to Home Page

  • Road (National) Tour Review Index
  • New York City & Environs Theatre Review Index
  • Berkshire, Massachusetts Theatre Review Index
  • Boston Area Theatre Review Index
  • Florida Theatre Review Index
  • London Theatre Review Index
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (Twin Cities) Theatre Review Index
  • Philadelphia & Environs Theatre Review Index
  • San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Review Index
  • Seattle Area Theatre Review Index
  • Toronto, Ontario (Canada) Index