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Alexandra Espinoza, Bi Jean Ngo, Loenard C. Haas & Catherine K. Slusar in ‘Eureka Day’

InterAct Theatre Company

Eureka Day

By Jonathan Spector

Directed by Seth Rozin

www.InterActTheatre.org

Oct. 30-Nov. 17.

Jonathan Spector’s ‘Eureka Day’ is InterAct Theatre’s strong season opener, directed by Seth Rozin, a drama that addresses the serious issues surround child vaccinations and a biting satire about our increasing inability to communicate with each other.

The school board members of the Eureka Elementary School meet in the library surrounded by artwork and messages about inclusion and respect for differing points of view, they routinely make school policy by consensus. But they can’t agree on anything is when they are faced with the crisis of a mumps outbreak that threatens to close the school.

They try to approach the mumps crisis rationally, but when it becomes apparent that there are pro-vaccine vs. anti-vaxxers and that applied policy needs to be established as they continue to wade into the sandbox of loaded semantics and ‘framing’ the dialogue. The white American members of the group who are ostensibly most concerned with minority views.

Don the board chair, recites meditative runes to get the positive energy flowing, and everyone is encouraged to weigh in. Suzanne is all about inclusion and hearing other points of view, but is so busy talking about her progressive views that others have trouble getting their views heard.  Eli is the endlessly articulate academic, who also happens to be a chief financial patron of the school.

Meiko is a young Asian-American mother whose child is down with the mumps but is recovering as just runs a non-threatening course and is suspicious of western medicines.  Carina is an African American mother and the newest member and is knows early on that as ‘inclusive’ as this group is, she has her doubts.

There is a brilliantly written scene when Don decides to moderate a discussion on Skype  As the members start to discuss the issues, and people start weighing in and the discussion starts to devolve into inane text spats, slurs and personal attacks between the pro-vaxxers & anti-vaxxers. Then everyone starts to turn on the panel and gets very personal.

Belief systems collide and the moral high ground is up for grabs- the issue is not the issue, but thew fight about the issue. Sound familiar.

At two hours, the theatrical arc of this play is impressive. Spector has a fine ear for the rhythms of natural dialogue that gives the actors a lot to work individually and as an ensemble.   InterAct director Seth Rozin’s precision direction, particularly orchestrating the riotous Skype scene, is masterful throughout.

Catherine K. Slusar is the longtime board member who has a personal tragedy that causes her to take a position that is at odds with Carina. with who has started to push back against her manipulative banter.

Alexandra Espinoza projects a lot between the lines about what she is feelings about the dysfunction of the group. Bi Jean Ngo’s Meiko, like Carina, remains mostly silently through the meetings, but her expressions and body language speak volumes.

Inclusiveness is an all things are relative concept in this ‘progressive’ wealthy community. Lucas Haas as the ineffectual peacemaker whose good will is only aggravating the crisis. Dan Hodge is terrific as the articulate Eli who can barely speak contemplating the fate of his critically ill son.

This is a talky play and Spector has a great ear for naturalizing dialogue that sound authentic out of these characters. InterAct director Seth Rozin directs this strong cast and balances Spector’s careening serio-comic elements.   Terrific production design by Janie E. Howland at The Drake’s Proscenium Theater,