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The Effect

Members say: Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Clever
25 reviews
158 reviews

Britain's National Theatre, Jean Doumanian Productions and Barrow Street Theater present the American premiere of a new play that takes on our pill-popping culture with humor and drama.... Read more

Hearts racing. Minds reeling. Knees buckling. Connie and Tristan have palpable chemistry—or is it a side effect of a new super-antidepressant? They are volunteers in a clinical trial, but their sudden and illicit romance forces the supervising doctors to face off over the ethical consequences of their work. Directed by David Cromer.


Reviews (183)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

The New York Times

"The irreducibility of love is the subject of 'The Effect', Lucy Prebble’s very clever — and ultimately more than clever — play, artfully directed by David Cromer...'The Effect' benefits from its smaller scale...Cromer has steered these young performers into nakedly passionate portrayals...Ms. Prebble is far too smart to find a firm resolution for the debate at the center of 'The Effect'. But in the end, she leaves room for what might be called a very loving uncertainty." Full Review


"Prebble's script is full of memorable moments and characters that stab at the heart of Western society's troubling relationship with prescription drugs...David Cromer directs 'The Effect' with clinical precision yet somehow manages to avoid the sterility that tack often entails...The acting is satisfyingly unsafe...Brimming with challenging insight, 'The Effect' is sure to cause some heated post-show discussions, especially in our hypermedicated age." Full Review

Time Out New York

"For a play about test subjects going through extremes, 'The Effect' leaves you slightly cold...It’s a credit to playwright Lucy Prebble’s probity and wit that these questions excite the mind, even if the heart rate remains steady...It’s a solid issue drama that allows room for debate, humor and canny twists...David Cromer’s crisply intelligent production shows a touch of Ivo van Hove's Euro-chic, multimedia approach, which suits the material well...The cast does fine work." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"Provocative themes don't always make for compelling drama...'The Effect' is never as convincing as the intellectual arguments in which its characters frequently engage...The new play also suffers from lack of specificity — the characterizations of the protagonists are sketchy at best — and melodramatic plot developments that don't feel fully credible. Despite being cut by more than a half-hour in its transfer across the pond, the play lacks narrative momentum and often feels repetitive." Full Review

New York Theater

"'The Effect' has a solid plot; seeds planted early sprout a few surprises...The plot and the deceptively straightforward, largely restrained performances seem mostly in service to a series of intriguing questions threaded throughout the two-hour play, sometimes dramatically, sometimes in the form of debate...The playwright does not offer pat, authoritative-sounding theories to answer these questions. But the warmth, pathos and humor in her writing suggests where she stands." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"It's an unusual, even provocative premise...Too bad, then, that Prebble distorts her subject matter with so much hokum...The author has some mordant points to make, but she undercuts them by making her characters behave like refugees from a sweeps-week episode of 'General Hospital'...The director, David Cromer, handles the actors as well as can be expected under these increasingly unconvincing circumstances...Prebble is a writer with talent; she should learn to get out of her own way." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"The result is a play that thinks and feels like no other I can remember: unapologetically intellectual, but always more relatable and visceral than abstruse...Cromer knows how to yank you into plays, even against your will, and that gift is in full force here. It wouldn't matter if the acting weren't convincing, but it is....Maybe science can't create love. But it can create engrossing, enveloping theatre, as this experiment of Prebble's so solidly proves." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"The premise is clever—and director David Cromer has a track record of brilliant conceptions—but the production, despite excellent performances, doesn’t quite click...While Cromer has a sharp cast, the plot is iffy. 'The Effect' is a great premise for a serious discussion on why drug therapy may or may not work and the possible social consequences that follow. But as dramatic fodder, it’s a hard pill to swallow." Full Review

AM New York

"'The Effect' is somewhat compromised by an on-and-off momentum, over-the-top gestures and the deliberately clinical tone. Nevertheless, it makes for a smart, unpredictable drama that asks a lot of disconcerting questions. The cast is quite effective under Cromer’s sharp direction." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"An interesting but flawed play. 'The Effect' is a provocative experiment gone awry. But it’s intelligent, well-staged and well-acted. If only all theater that didn’t quite work could be this enjoyable an evening...Playwright Lucy Prebble assembles the elements of an intriguing thought experiment. And for about half the evening, a strong cast led by director David Cromer and a crack technical team produce very promising results." Full Review

New York Daily News

"The mirror-image twosomes are too tidy for a play about the messiness of the medical profession and human emotions. And some twists stretch credulity...Still, the play delivers. And between the topnotch acting and director David Cromer’s brisk staging that makes smart use of projections it’s easy to go with it. 'The Effect' asks provocative questions about the head and the heart. It also manages to appeal to both. Win, win." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Lucy Prebble’s smashing medical drama...Prebble is superbly abetted by the director David Cromer’s sleek yet passionate production. He moves the action along so fast it may induce occasional brain whiplash, while maintaining a strong theatrical frame around the proceedings, except when he breaks it for effect. Those effects would not be as powerful as they are without the top-notch work of the cast." Full Review


"The themes and characters draw you in and leave you with much to think about...Even though I found the parallels between the two couples somewhat too schematic, this is an intelligent, exciting play with lots of very sharp dialogue...Fortunately David Cromer's pristine staging is smartly focused on that compelling dialogue and on the performances...The actors are the play's heart and soul." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Under David Cromer’s careful direction, the ensemble cast members deliver spirited performances and maneuver skillfully through the playwright’s plot surprises and thematic strands...The lack of the ability to connect in any meaningful way with the play’s principals leaves 'The Effect' with a less than satisfying effect on the audience...Despite this, the play is an interesting exploration into the vicissitudes of love and its provenance." Full Review


"A provocative if rather scattershot play about the chemistry of the brain, anti-depression drugs and love...Artfully directed by David Cromer and fervently acted by Flood and Hudson, it winds up as a multi-stranded, open-minded consideration of the place of anti-depressant drugs in contemporary lives and relationships...Prebble seems to come down on the side of love as essentially a natural rather than a pharmaceutical phenomenon. It's at that point that the play becomes quite touching." Full Review


"A provocative and powerful drama…The first act of 'The Effect' is mainly expository…By the end of the first act we are sitting on the edge of our seats to discover where all of this is headed…Cromer’s cast is as excellent…'The Effect' is provocative and powerful and should stimulate much discussion...Director David Cromer and his excellent quartet of actors will have you hanging on every word even as you think you know where this is all going–and you would be wrong." Full Review

The Wrap

"Lucy Prebble‘s 'The Effect' is half good. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong half...The physical side of the production is stunning and complicated in its mix of the eerie and the sterile...Much of it is not drama. It’s just speeches, one after the other. One doctor even begins to sound a lot like Tom Cruise. Remember when the movie star went off on Brooke Shields years ago because she treated her postpartum depression with drugs? That’s where Prebble takes 'The Effect.'" Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"Something seems to have been lost crossing the pond, because I fail to see what the fuss was about...It seemed at times repetitive...I mostly enjoyed the first act, but was disappointed when the playwright turned to melodrama midway through the second. The play raises many interesting questions without providing easy answers. Hudson and Brazda are both superb...This play is certainly an improvement over last year’s similarly themed 'Placebo' at Playwrights Horizons, but that is faint praise." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"A bracing investigation into the nature of love that stimulates both the head and the heart. And David Cromer, perhaps the smartest director working today, draws out all the nuances of the competing arguments in a sleek production...The best parts of this production are the performances...Particularly Hudson, who emits the idiosyncratic charms of a young Jeff Goldblum...I fell in love with both him and Flood—and with this play." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"A sugar coated, occasionally witty look at the situation...There are good performances all around but outstanding is that by Carter Hudson...'The Effect,' frankly, begins to have little effect over the course of two hours." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"A clever cocktail of love, depression and pharmaceuticals...Director David Cromer expertly manages the shift from intricate courtly flirtation, reminiscent of Shakespeare or Marivaux, to partial nudity and onstage sex...A debate about the efficacy of antidepressants towards the end seems strident. Transitions between scenes can also be awkward...It’s not entirely clear what 'The Effect' has to say about contemporary psychiatry. Perhaps there simply are no ready answers." Full Review

Act Three - The Reviews

"Ms. Prebble kept us on our toes the entire performance through her twists and turns. Ms. Flood and Mr. Hudson kept us entertained with their flirtations and connection. The show educates, informs, and entertains...The relationship between the doctors is a bit less fleshed out and could use some more refinement--or more accurately clarity. Perhaps Ms. Prebble will get an opportunity to have another clinical trial on a larger stage. One might speculate the results would be positive." Full Review

Stage and Cinema

"Exploring notions of consciousness and identity as they relate to the chemistry in our brains, Ms. Prebble takes us on a breathless ride that is emotionally satisfying and philosophically compelling...Mr. Cromer elicits sharp, dynamic performances from the excellent cast. And although I’m not certain that in the end Ms. Prebble supplies the most complete responses to the unsolvable problems she introduces, her dramatic exploration of her subjects is both riveting and fascinating." Full Review

Edge New York

"The energy, acting chops and yes, chemistry between Tristan and Connie is so palpable that it lights up the intimate stage...The play moves at a great pace covering a wealth of subjects from our belief that drugs can solve and save any problem, to what is or is not real in our modern lives. The success of much of this is due to the inspired direction of David Comer whose work has a tension and emotionality that is leagues ahead of most other directors." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Both actors are fantastic to watch...It’s a heady complex topic that sometimes felt too emotional and far too simply debated in maybe a much too contrived setup, but Prebble makes an interesting idea come alive, with lots of questions being asked, but no real obvious answers given." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

Funny, Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You're in the mood for a very interesting and entertaining pharmacological dramedy.

Don't see it if You're offended by onstage nudity and simulated sex, even when it's highly relevant to the plot and tastefully done.

Ambitious, Relevant, Confusing, Slow

See it if you want a play exploring human passions...are they real or drug induced. By the author of the Broadway show Enron.

Don't see it if you don't enjoy medical or drug experiment plays.

Original, Thought-provoking, Disappointing

See it if you are interested in phsycological drama and unusual plots, even if delivered somewhat amaterurishly.

Don't see it if you like well developed characters whose behavior seems appropriate for the story plot.

Disappointing, Overrated, Slow

See it if You enjoy movie-of-the-week plots

Don't see it if You expect a factually-based representation of a clinical trial and realistic plots.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Great writing

See it if you enjoy theater which takes a "what if" approach and explores scenarios and themes that you might overlook in everyday life

Don't see it if you don't like plays that force you to think how its themes matter outside of the actual play, you want clearly defined resolutions

Funny, Absorbing, Thought-provoking

See it if you like ethical, moral and romantic conundrums played very well.

Don't see it if you're not enchanted by sci-fi gimmicks.

Original, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Unusual staging

See it if You enjoy relevant theatre tackling medical, psychological and romantic issues with no easy answers.

Don't see it if You have no interest in experimental psychology or are easily offended by nudity.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Intense

See it if You want a terrifically acted, blistering play about medicine, control & attraction which might or might not all turn out to be a placebo.

Don't see it if You can't handle some severe tonal shifts and an ending that some might see as confusing.

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you appreciate flawed characters, a bit of mystery, and a good amount of humor with your dramas.

Don't see it if you refuse to accept the legitimacy of mental illness.

Absorbing, Profound, Quirky, Great writing, Great staging

See it if Enjoy well written, well performed work about life.

Don't see it if Depression is a serious issue for you

Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Borderline

See it if psychology, human behavior and the study of psychotropic medications are of interest; you want to see good actors in vulnerable situations.

Don't see it if you are looking for an uplifting play or a story with a definitive solution.

Clever, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Disappointing

See it if you like theatre that presents issues.

Don't see it if you want to remain in the dark about drug trials.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you question pharmaceutical solutions to mental health care & and you enjoy a layered well acted story. Very nice staging too.

Don't see it if you want a happy ending, you think depression isn't debilitating or you're turned off by simulated sex on stage.

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Challenging

See it if You question the ethics of human guinea pigs. You ever wonder who you really are and whether your emotions are "real"

Don't see it if You like like unambiguous theater. You prefer to be entertained rather than listen to heavy dialogue.

Original, Intelligent, Resonant, Overrated

See it if A fan of The National Theatre in London, where it was done. That's why I went.

Don't see it if Not interested in clinical tests that are of no interest to you. All staged in a clinic

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Great writing

See it if you like intense and, at times, amusing drama

Don't see it if you are impatient

Thought-provoking, Disappointing, Cliched, Slow, Great staging

See it if You don't know enough about how dangerous mind-altering medications can be. This show came too late--we know everything it has to say now.

Don't see it if You have anything better to do.

Indulgent, Disappointing, Excruciating, Slow, Dull

See it if I cannot think of any reason to recommend this show. The writing, acting and direction (from a director whose work I previously loved) poor

Don't see it if You like good writing, acting and direction and you dislike being "talked down to" by a playwright.

Original, Clever, Disappointing, Overrated

See it if When I tell people about this play it sounds so interesting but it doesn't show when you watch this disappointing show. I still say it is

Don't see it if so so because it's such and interesting concept. Wish it could have be written better.

Indulgent, Disappointing, Cliched

See it if you can't resist love stories that shouldn't have happened.

Don't see it if you can't stand cliched stories. Story about 2 patients in clinical trial that is not feasible.

Original, Thought-provoking, Indulgent, Biased, Misinformed

See it if You want to see an original idea exploring psychiatric medications. You want to think about the ethics of the doctors and drug makers.

Don't see it if You will find the author's point of view to be biased against the doctors and drugs, as I did.

Original, Absorbing, Clever, Resonant, Science-filled

See it if Like medical stories: like doctor and patient dramas:like science and mystery mixed with love

Don't see it if Don't like medical stories; don't like science or experiments; are depressed.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Relevant, Great writing

See it if Edgy, relevant, theater.

Don't see it if You're not prepared to think.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Refreshing

See it if enjoy new drama with wit and a little messiness.

Don't see it if you need strong and logical dramatic resolution.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great writing, Confusing

See it if you like plays with unconventional themes and plays that make you think.

Don't see it if you prefer to avoid sex and nudity on stage, even when tastefully done.