As Berkeley “community school,” Eureka Day faces a Mumps outbreak among its students, five executive committee members grapple with their feelings, concerns, and strong-held beliefs surrounding mandatory vaccination. This topical two-hour play at The Old Vic has a shining international cast and features a hilarious fifteen-minute “Livestream” community meeting that is worth the ticket price alone.
Award-winning actress Helen Hunt leads the company with an understated, subtle portrayal of Suzanne, a long-serving and devoted mother and advocate for medical choice. Ben Schnetzer as Eli displays great skill as a live performer juggling his character’s incidental comedy with poignant moments of emotional distress. Mark McKinney’s turn as Don provides constant laughs throughout the entire piece as he struggles to mediate debate amongst the board. To paraphrase Suzanne, Don is a great captain until an iceberg is in sight. This proves true and the levity that McKinney offers, as a result, is necessary and appreciated. Susan Kelechi Watson’s Carina is exquisite, full of nuance, knowing glances, and buried discomfort.
Katy Rudd has staged the play simply and effectively. At times throughout and especially at the top, Jonathan Spector’s language feels start and stop in the mouths of many of the actors. So much of what gets said and is trying to be said is interrupted and unfinished. A script like that makes speaking it a tricky feat for an ensemble. At times you hear the playwright rather than the people but the cast does their best to preserve a sense of naturalism.
Rob Howell’s set is nauseatingly colorful and evocative of a hotchpotch classroom. Andrzej Goulding and the team on Video deserve a special shoutout, not only for effective projections but for the comedic cueing which was undoubtedly a nightmare to time but which pays off tremendously.
The show runs until 31 Oct 2022
Review: Matthew Pierce Photo: Manuel Harlan