I became smitten with Jack Fry a few years ago when I got to see him in his other one man show, the truly beautiful They Call Me Mister Fry, about his equally hysterical and moving experiences as a first year teacher in South Central Los Angeles.
This time Fry vividly resurrects the famed theoretical physicist we all know from classes, movies and posters. What makes Fry’s portrayal so special is his ability to show the great man Einstein as just a man named Einstein who, as is the case with most figures from history, is frequently forgotten to have actually stood on this earth.
Fry’s Einstein is not the acclaimed celebrity from the latter half of his life but the struggling young husband and father from his painstaking early career in academia. This is a man dealing with those maddening points in life when you are right, others are wrong and nobody knows it but you. How did that wild shock on Einstein’s scalp come to be? It got that way from trying to pull it out in frustration. Einstein! illustrates that not only was there a great deal of mental strain put into figuring out General Relativity (E=mc2) but a great many other difficulties, from bad weather to, oh, say World War I; yet with all the heady science and conflict, Fry never loses focus on Einstein’s devotion to imagination and creativity. He also completely alters himself to become Einstein’s contemporaries in invariably animated and amusing detail.
Through all of this lively and informative performance, one can tell Fry is a teacher at heart: all the history, science and charts are fascinating and very entertaining. This is not “children’s theater” but theater for everyone, including children. “I am still that little kid inside,” Fry told me after the show, and it comes as no surprise. Fry’s interpretations of Einstein’s strained relations with his son Hans are adorable and devastating. As was evident from They Call Me Mister Fry and now in Einstein!, Fry’s heart pours itself forth when he is embodying a child, and one would be hard pressed to find someone who is not at least a little bit moved when he does it.
Lastly, the performance I saw was marred by some significant, nearly devastating technical errors during the performance. I can tell you that few things cause you to lose your nerve more than being under the stage lights while your tech cues are malfunctioning, but Fry just rolled along with a smile, his signature humor and great charm as things slowly returned to normal. You’re a better man than I am, Mister Fry.