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A British play about love turns its attention to America

March 18, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) — As a playwright, Lucy Prebble isn’t frightened of going into big, scary places. She’s already delved into pedophilia and stock-market bubbles. Now she’s going after love.

Prebble’s play “The Effect” makes its American debut this month at the Barrow Street Theatre. To write it, Prebble spent years trying to understand the pharmaceutical industry and the scientific underpinnings of love.

“I’m really interested in things that people tell me are hard to understand. I suppose there’s a slightly childish part of me that says, ‘Well, I’m going to try to understand it,’” she said. “I look at making a play as an opportunity to learn something as well as feel something.”

“The Effect” follows two young people who become romantic during a clinical trial for a new antidepressant. They can’t be sure if their relationship is true or if they’re just enjoying elevated dopamine levels.

“What really drew me to this subject matter was looking at love. The more I thought about love and the more I looked into what it was, the more you have to be faced with science,” said Prebble, who wrote the plays “The Sugar Syndrome” and “Enron,” as well as the cable series “Secret Diary of a Call Girl.”

The director is David Cromer. He first met Prebble a year ago over dinner in London, calling her generous, patient and “the least precious playwright I’ve ever worked with.”

He said the new play, which won the 2012 UK Critics’ Circle award for best new play, sits at the intersection of heart and science. “It’s a crystallization of theater and it’s also a way to examine, one step removed, all that happens when we’re falling in love,” Cromer said.

The play is co-produced by the Royal National Theatre and marks the first time the British theatrical powerhouse has ventured off-Broadway. It is also being produced by Jean Doumanian Productions and Barrow Street Theatre.

The National Theatre has had success transferring to Broadway such hits as “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” ″One Man, Two Guvnors” and “War Horse.” They mounted “The Effect” three years ago.

Tim Levy, who heads up the National Theatre in North America, said he’s interested in exploring different ways of collaborating, producing and partnering across the Atlantic.

“For quite a while, we would have a show and it would either go to Broadway or nothing at all. I think the idea that we could actually bring a play like this, which is quite an intimate piece, off-Broadway is something we’re really into at the moment,” he said.

Doumanian, who also has produced “The Flick,” ″Our Town” and “Every Brilliant Thing” at the Barrow Street Theatre, has long admired the National Theatre and said collaborating made sense.

“It’s what theater’s about, isn’t it? It’s discovering new things and making connections,” the Tony Award-winning producer said.





Follow Mark Kennedy at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/mark-kennedy

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