Theatre Mirror Reviews - "EINSTEIN AND THE POLAR BEAR"

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Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Arctic Playhouse's current show is "Einstein and the Polar Bear" by Tom Griffin. Bill, a highly regarded but reclusive novelist living in a secluded farmhouse, is visited by Diane, an attractive young motorist whose car has broken down in the middle of a blizzard. He has been haunted by a lot of success and the suicide of his wife. Bill runs a used bookstore and lives with his father who suffered a debilitating stroke. His speech is so impaired he can only describe the beginning of a story about meeting Einstein which he repeats several times throughout the show. Although suspicious, Bill gives her lodging for the night and as the evening progresses, more about Diane's motives and Bill's literary reputation is revealed. The two draw closer, occasionally being interrupted by colorful local characters and the ramblings of Bill's aging father who once encountered Albert Einstein. When the only mechanic in town, Bobby Bullins is busy, she must stay there over night. She is told the local goings on by the postman and Bullins' unhappy wife. By the story's end, Bill is forced to confront the pain, loss and self-doubt which made him forsake his talent and the harsh realities of the world in which it once flourished. A romance develops between Diane and Bill as the story ensues. Director Sandy Cerel casts these roles beautifully and elicits stunning, well nuanced performances from her hard working cast.

Sandy has a keen insight into these strange and unusual characters. She keeps the pacing of the show in constant motion so the interest of the audience never wavers. The title is taken from two interwoven stories of Bill's addled father meeting Einstein in a coffee shop years ago and the other about a polar bear escaping from the zoo that is being tracked by the locals. Heading this stellar cast is Christian O'Brien as Bill. He commands the stage in this role whether it be with a comic line or a dramatic moment. He delivers a multilayered performance as this complex character who has been carrying a ton of baggage with him throughout these years. Christian's enormous dialogue crackles with electricity and intensity, winning him a standing ovation. Rachel Hanauer is mysterious and alluring as Diane. The audience wonders what she is up to and some clever twists and turns give you the answers you need. She delivers her huge amount of dialogue with the verve it needs. Terry Simpson who I have reviewed as Scrooge in "Mrs. Bob Cractchit's Wild Christmas Binge", doesn't have much dialogue as this elderly man who suffered a stroke. He continually tells of meeting Einstein. He delivers the goods in this role, too with a stunning emotional speech near the end of the show.

Playing the other roles are Jennifer Mensel as Helen, who is downhearted because of her philandering husband, Bobby. She has a funny scene in act 1 and a snowball scene in Act 2 where husband and wife finally have marital relations again. Chris Verleger is a hoot as Charlie, the know it all mailman ala Cliff Claven from "Cheers" and one of his funniest lines is about "No shit, Dick Tracey" which he explains to Diane. Mike Petrarca portrays Bobby, the mechanic who is unable that night to fix Diane's car but does so in the morning. He has a funny dialogue about obtaining snatch and fornication at last with Bill. The dialogue is rated PG so there some racy lines in this show so beware those of you that are faint at heart. The show is an offbeat romantic character driven comedy but you never forget that these are tortured souls underneath the quirkiness of the characters. So for a well directed and well acted show, be sure to catch "Einstein and the Polar Bear" at the Arctic Playhouse.

Einstein and the Polar Bear (8 to 24 September)
The Arctic Playhouse, 117 Washington St, West Warwick, RI
1(401)573-3443 or

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide