Friday, September 15, 2017

Exploring the Enigma that was Einstein with Matchbox Theater

"The man behind the myth" may be a cliche phrase, but it's stuck around for a reason. 


Photo courtesy of Matchbox Theater

Such a phrase is perfectly applied to Einstein: A Stage Portrait, currently showing at Matchbox Theater. This one-man show places Einstein at the end of his life, reminiscing to the audience about the many phases he has experienced and truly humanizing a historical figure who has become so lionized that it can be difficult to remember that he was a man, too.

Thomas Schuch is the maestro leading us through this play, which he has been performing internationally for more than 16 years. Schuch's passion for this subject (he'd have to be to continue the same show for so long!) really shows throughout the show and the talk-back following the performance. He clearly loves Einstein, not just for the greatness of his reputation but also for the humanity and growth he showed throughout his life. Schuch can feel a little long-winded as he progresses - with some slight judicious trimming, this show could easily go without an intermission and feel a little lighter paced - but he presents a very relaxed, comfortable persona on stage, and it's a great entree into this great figure if you're not familiar already.

"The search for truth is always more important than its possession."

If you haven't read Walter Isaacson's exhaustive biography about Albert Einstein (and you really, really should - it's magnificently written), there will be a lot about Einstein's past here that will be new to you. For example: did you know that Einstein flunked out of grade school? That he historically received very poor marks in the maths and sciences? That his family (especially his father) considered him a failure? That he was divorced? That he regretted the creation of the atomic bomb? That he felt hunted by the level of fame he achieved near the end of his life?

These might seem trivial details; why should we care? But the thing is, Einstein was a rare man in his own day and would be the human equivalent of a unicorn if he existed today. Think of it: an eccentric, ethnic refugee whose fame and career resulted from total immersement in upending the established theories of science; who was a celebrity for the scientific principles and hard data he discovered, not his scandalous life story; who refused to shy away from involvement in politics and morality, even (or perhaps especially) as it applied to his work; who was so eccentric that, as beloved as he was, he never felt that he truly belonged to the society in which he lived.

"Man can create as well as destroy. Surely there are more men who value beauty than destruction."

There's a lot we can learn from a man like this; from a person who was determined to live life in all of its glorious complexities; who took a moral stand against overwhelming powers even if it would cost him his life and career; and who found the profoundest mysteries to have the most elegant answers. I like to think there's always an Einstein out there; the question is, will we listen to them? Will we receive them? Will we make room for their difference and uncomfortability? Many of the problems facing us today depend on us thinking hard about these questions and answers. Einstein: A Stage Portrait provides an accessible, perfect venue for conducting such reflections.

Einstein: A Stage Portrait runs at Matchbox Theater through October 1. It's a kid friendly show and tickets range from $10 - $25. For more information and to buy tickets, click on this link.