Monday, April 4, 2016

Off-Broadway Review: The Effect

(L-R) Carter Hudson and Susannah Flood in a scene from Lucy Prebble's "The Effect" directed by David Cromer at the Barrow Street Theatre (photo by Matthew Murphy).
‘How Are We Feeling Today?’ is a Loaded Question in This Play
By Lauren Yarger
You know that feeling you get when you’re in love? Well what if you felt that way, but weren’t sure whether it was real or drug induced?

So begins the questioning in Lucy Prebble’s provocative play The Effect Off-Broadway, directed by David Cromer at the Barrow Street Theatre. This latest from the playwright, who explored ethics in the world of finance in Enron, tackles questions human drama – and chemistry – in The Effect.

Connie Hall (Susannah Flood) and Tristan Frey (Carter Hudson) are test subjects in a study for a new antidepressant drug. They willingly throw back increasing doses of pills and agree not to use cell phones or engage in sexual activity for the duration of the trial while they are observed and questioned about their moods and physical side effects by Dr. Lorna James (Kati Brazda).

Because the antidepressant attributes of the drug stimulate the same area of the brain that produces sexual pheromones, one of the side effects seems to be an increasing sexual attraction between the two subjects. They start breaking all the rules -- sometimes very explicitly, so be warned -- texting each other, meeting on their own, and eventually engaging in sex as the attraction becomes stronger.

Dr. James finds out and warns them to stop, but doesn’t take them out of the study, raising some ethics issues. She has some issues of her own, including a questionable past with colleague Dr. Toby Sealey (Steve Key), the shadows of their relationship visually depicted by Lighting Designer Tyler Micoleau on Marsha Ginsberg’s cold, clinical set. Sealey spends some of his time talking up drug company Raushen, bringing up some conflict-of-interest issues.

Meanwhile, as the effect of the experimental drug escalates, we discover that only one of the test subjects is getting the drug while the other is receiving a placebo making it impossible to know whose feelings are genuine. Dr. James sacrifices the future of her subjects in favor of ephemeral results, but the experiment brings horrifying, long-term consequences.

The performances are intense with tight direction. Questions are raised, but answers often are left to the audience to ponder. What brings happiness and what are we willing to sacrifice to get it? Can we ever really know the extent of someone else’s feelings or our own?

One thing we can know for sure is that our brains have been teased by this play, which premiered in London, and that we feel a bit unsettled by the effect.

The Effect continues through June 19 at the Barrown Street Theatre, 27 Barrow St., NYC. Perfoomances are Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 pm; Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 pm; Sunday at 2:30 and 7:30 pm. Tickets are $59.50 - $99.50barrowstreettheatre­.com.

Additional Credits:
Costume Design by Sarah Laux, Sound Design by Erik T. Lawson, Projection Design by Maya Ciarrocchi, Original Music by Daniel Kluger, Properties Design by Carrie Mossman, Fight Direction by, J. David Brimmer.

-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language
-- Sexual activity
-- Nudity
-- Sexual dialogue

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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