Love in the Age of Drugs

Love in the Age of Drugs

A scene from “The Effect” (©Matthew Murphy)

I remember reading somewhere that there really are only three or four original stories to tell, so in movies, theater and books, you will usually find iterations on a limited number of themes. If that is the case, then “The Effect” most definitely broke the mold when it comes to original stories. Not sure what to expect, I took in this show at the intimate Barrow Street Theatre on a recent Tuesday night and found myself laughing, troubled and reflective all in one evening from the thought-provoking messages that fill this play by British playwright Lucy Prebble. The premise is a curious one: Two hip, literate and attractive twentysomethings—one him, one her—sign up for a clinical trial for a new antidepressant. As the dosage increases, so does their powerful draw for one another. Thrown into the pharmaceutical complications is the fact that one volunteer is supposedly on a placebo. So: Is it real, or is it chemicals? And how do we define love, anyway? Isn’t it just a burst of dopamine that floods the brain when we have a powerful sexual desire for someone? What is real, anyway, and what is merely a scientific processing created in our brains? What chemical impulses are we supposed to “act” on, and which ones are we supposed to resist? All these questions and more come up in this play, enhanced by the terrific, effortless acting of Susannah Flood, who plays Connie, and Carter Hudson, who plays Tristan, the two clinical patients. A supporting cast—the two doctors who helm the clinical trial, themselves with a complicated romantic history of their own—(Kati Brazda and George Demas) brought an added spark to a play that already crackled with depth and humor. So the bottom line is: when we are flooded with feelings of love and passion, what emotions can we really trust? It may be a rhetorical question, but it doesn’t really matter—“The Effect” makes these questions that more entertainining.