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Informed Consent

a Drama
by Deborah Zoe Laufer

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 4799

SHOWING : October 09, 2015 - November 08, 2015



Based on a true story, this fast-paced, heartfelt tale by the author of Horizon’s popular "End Days" is a current NY Times Critics Pick.

Jillian, an ambitious geneticist, is racing against her own genetic clock to solve scientific mysteries that will save both a Native American tribe and her own 4-year-old daughter. She jumps at the chance to do ground-breaking research to find out why an ancient tribe in the Grand Canyon is being devastated by diabetes. But as Jillian uncovers the truth about the tribe’s origin, her research threatens to destroy their most sacred traditions. At the same time, she and her husband face off with a monster lurking in Jillian’s own DNA – and possibly her daughter’s. With today’s science moving at breakneck speed, how much knowledge is too much?

“A thoughtful and engrossing play” — The New York Times: Critics Pick (August 18, 2015)

“It’s the kind of work theatre needs more of – urgent, challenging, and of-the-moment – grappling with concepts that scare us and intrigue us.” — Cleveland Plain Dealer

“A beautifully woven, cleverly conceived and highly entertaining tapestry of storytelling” — Cleveland Jewish News

“Compelling, humorous... A must-see production” — Cool Cleveland

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Second-Act Seriousness
by playgoer
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Many modern two-act plays set up an intriguing premise in the first act, using a lot of humor, then stuff the second act with serious speeches and somber pronouncements that seem intended to show what a deep-thinking individual has written the play. "Informed Consent" is one of these plays. Basing her story in part on an actual case involving the isolated Havasupai tribe suing Arizona State University to limit blood testing, playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer has inserted a parallel storyline concerning early-onset Alzheimer’s. This overstuffs the play with serious intent.

Horizon Theatre Company’s production takes place on a wonderful set designed by Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay, where lighted translucent drawers and file cabinets punctuate a cliff face. A ramp circles around the cliff face, with the center section of the stage painted in a geometric pattern resembling Native American artwork. A secondary cliff stage right is accessed by a circular stairway. With a cyclorama sky behind, on which Dale Adams’ so-so projections are periodically displayed, the effect certainly captures the Arizona setting of the script. Mary Parker’s lighting design gets quite a workout, illuminating different sections of the stage for different scenes, but leaves as little impression as Sydney Roberts’ costumes, Kate Bidwell LaFoy’s props, and Thom Jenkins’ sound design.

Director Lisa Adler’s pre-curtain speech instructs the audience that the play concerns science, family, and faith. Family is certainly the centerpiece of the play. But in my opinion, office politics and cultural beliefs don’t exactly equal "faith," and the genetic anthropologist at the center of the action seems to have a rather naïve belief in the power of science. For a geneticist, she seems oblivious to the power of DNA methylation, and she makes no murmur of correction when her husband-to-be reads a story about Lily the Lemming, which apparently is based on the myth of lemming mass suicide. In an attempt to make the scientist sympathetic to a general theatre-going audience, Ms. Laufer has undermined the scientific underpinnings of the story.

The script requires each of the five actors to consciously acknowledge the fact that their story is being performed, but in general they each portray one major player in the action: Bethany Anne Lind is the geneticist, Jillian; Neal A. Ghant is her husband; Tonia Jackson in the college dean (and also plays the geneticist’s mother); Diany Rodriguez is a Native American (and also plays the geneticist’s daughter); and Carey Curtis Smith is an anthropologist mentor. Ms. Rodriguez is wonderful in every respect, and Ms. Lind and Mr. Ghant are quite appealing in their roles. Mr. Smith and Ms. Jackson, who take on the widest variety of roles, got on my nerves in some of their portrayals.

The need for informed consent in DNA testing is a complex issue, with DNA providing a genetic roadmap for all sorts of studies. Once DNA is extracted and sequenced for one purpose, it can be used for many other purposes, some probably not even currently imagined. It’s certainly a topic worthy of consideration in a popular work of theatre, but "Informed Consent" takes it as a title and shoe-horns its consideration into a story whose main concern is the family of the geneticist. It raises a question as to whether or not "popular science" is science at all. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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