EINSTEIN’S DREAMS, Journeymen Theater Company, at the Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, Performance Loft. Alan Lightman’s 1993 meditation on Einstein’s mind and the nature of space and time is tailor-made for busy professionals who like to think of themselves as bookish though they rarely read anything weightier than Newsweek. The chapters are short, the type is large and clear, and there’s lots of white space. Lightman never clutters up his work of fiction–which replays Einstein’s supposed dreams over the three and a half months he was working on an element of his theory of relativity–with all the confusing details that make other, thicker novels such a chore. But the very qualities that make this book perfect for quick reading also make it hard to adapt to the stage. With no story or character development to speak of, director Frank Pullen and company have to work four times as hard to make the audience care.
Sometimes they succeed, as in one touching dream about a world in which time flows in spasmodic spurts and a pair of insecure lovers are driven apart because the boy misinterprets a pause in the universe as an indication of his girlfriend’s ambivalence. Most of the time, however, Pullen’s cast–which performs the adaptation readers-theater style–doesn’t have the polish, precision, or power to make Lightman’s prose seem stronger than it is. –Jack Helbig