Directed by Paul Gersten with effective stage business and featuring a mesmerizing presence of Kres Mersky (who intelligently wrote the one-woman show The Life and Times of A. Einstein) the play is both captivating and enlightening, and gives a fascinating look at the personal side of Albert Einstein. Mersky plays Ellen, his secretary for 35 years, complete with German accent. We never see Einstein who is at a seminar and due to arrive shortly for his birthday celebration. Ellen cleverly addresses the crowd of supposed press members from her well-appointed office in Einstein’s home in Princeton, New Jersey, moving about removing inappropriate decorations her dense new assistant Anna had put up such as a banner that reads “It’s a Boy.” She has a long conversation with Anna at the bakery where she has purchased a chocolate birthday cake. Ellen strongly suggests she change to vanilla, because Einstein is allergic to chocolate.
Charming throughout, Mersky tells humorous and educational anecdotes beginning when she applied for the job at 17. She was told the requirements were that she would drive, could type, and shoot a rifle. When she first met Einstein, he asked her qualifications. She replied she didn’t know much about science but could handle a gun. Einstein said: “You’re hired.” Einstein received so many death threats he needed protection.
She poignantly relates one of her last discussions with Einstein, who suffered from self-doubt and fears he is a fool. Mersky is clearly moved by the death of Einstein who she calls “the greatest Jew since Jesus.”
“The Life and Times of A. Einstein” is at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles. Performances: Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m., ending May 16. Tickets: General Admission: $18; Seniors (65+) and Veterans (with I.D.) -$15; KCRW members – $14; Current Military (with I.D.) – $9, Students (25 and under with I.D.) – $5.00. There is free parking in a lot across the street. For reservations: (323) 851-7977.