The Effect

The Effect is a Medicated Success at Dobama Theatre

Dobama Theatre
Professional Equity House Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

Under Artistic Director Nathan Motta, once again Dobama Theatre presents a fascinating and powerful production in The Effect by Lucy Prebble, who is a prolific master of language having created Showtime's Secret Diary of a Call Girl, the play ENRON, which played in the West End and Broadway, and also Home Box Office's Succession. Just a few highlights of her creative energy.

Dierdre Ring, Olivia Scicolone (front), Ananias J. Dixon (back bed), Joel Hammer (back right corner) Photo Credit: Steven Wagner Photography

The Effect gives us Connie Hall (Olivia Scicolone+) and Tristan Frey ( Ananias J. Dixon+), who are volunteers in a clinical drug trial. As an experimental drug is administered in timed increased dosages, the subjects start to experience a progressive attraction to each other. As the dosage increases, the emotions lay bare a physical relationship as well. The question becomes if they are experiencing a real connection. or is it the side effect of the new anti-depressant drug being tested. The undefined answer to the cause is just as unsettling as the effect. The relationship forces the doctors involved to face off over the ethical consequences of the work. As Motta asks in his preface, "So, if the brain is compromised, can we trust what we're thinking? Can we believe what we're feeling?" Insightful questions that permeate the performance. The administrator of the trial Dr. Lorna James (Derdriu Ring*) and her boss Dr. Toby Sealey (Joel Hammer*) are just as involved in discovering the truth as the subjects.

The play begins clinical in approach and look. Most visually notable are the crafted and intricate scenes changes executed by crew members, who double as clinic assistants. A marvel of artistic traffic. The stage is sterile and surrounded by a border that becomes several instruments of medical equipment through clever effects. We witness the first dose and slow reveal of revelations during the trial. What is an interesting requirement for the volunteers is that throughout the experiment, unsupervised physical or social interaction is not allowed. Watching the two navigate through the mental and physical maze is fascinating, and ends with the subjects performing a Cliff Note version of the Kama Sutra, which results in three words that have dictated many paths over history. The culmination of the sexual dance between these two is riviting. Conflicts and repercussions are ripe in the second act. Every character does not get a break from the realities of choices, and finally told truths. There are also enough triggers to send me to CVS for the next few months. The play also holds a surprise twist this is delivered with stark frankness and truth. There is much to learn and question here.
Ananias J. Dixon, Olivia Scicolone 
Photo Credit: Steven Wagner Photography
I can't say enough about these actors. Scicolone provides an incredible arc of apprehension, confusion, strength, and fragility. She is tremendous. Sharing the same energy is Dixon. He is a human cannonball of sex, game, and intention. A massive force of kinetic energy that compliments the proceeding beautifully. Both are inspiring, and provide a deep emotional ride. Ring and Hammer are stalwarts of the equity scene, and highly respected. Their skills are on full display here. Hammer provides strength in delivering truth with precision. Ring especially is given a path in the play that is remarkable to watch. Her nuanced craft is so rewarding. Her final monologue is a gift. 

Directing this piece is the fierce Laley Lippard. She is renown for championing new work and developing new plays. Lippard has provided an excellent interpretation of the script. Her vision is clear, precise, and emotionally compelling. Through this inspired vision, the technical team takes flight as they continue their own high-quality production values. Cameron Michalak creates a clinical masterpiece. Marcus Dana infuses precise lighting to create an intense atmosphere. T. Paul Lowry's Projection Design is first class and engaging, and allows us to be connected with the medical data in real time. Sound Designer Jeremy T. Dobbins provides flawless ear candy and clear dialogue. Inda Blatch-Geib continues to provide her excellent couture of appropriate character dress. Fight Choreographer Ryan Zarecki guides a focused and unsettling fight sequence, not for the faint of heart. Stage Manager Megan Mingus calls a fantastic show, which includes an incredible crew that executes scene changes with surgical perfection.

This is an interesting production that well deserves an audience.

At the opening night reception, Artistic Director Motta continued a tradition at Dobama by singling out someone that you usually don't see in the forefront. This time it was Emily Bowe Handling the wardrobe with professional aplomb. Bravo!

As many people who have to take a drug to help them through adversity say, "this shit is good" So is this play.

Cleveland Stage Alliance

+ Equity Membership Candidate
* Member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Thru March 25th


7:30pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2:30pm Sundays 

Runtime: Act I - 60m, Act II - 60m, One 15m intermission
Content Advisory: Adult Language, Nudity, Violence, Sexual Situations

$15-$32 Reserved Seating

(216) 932-3396

Dobama Theatre
2340 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118