Doctors Jane and Alexander functions under a bit of misdirection. Promoted as a play about the playwright’s grandfather, Alexander W. Wiener who discovered the Rh factor in blood, it is more about familial relationships, the stories we create for each other and personal longing. And it is a wonderful evening.
The piece grew from the playwright’s conversations with his mother, after she had stroke. Max Wolkowitz plays Edward (the playwright) and Alyssa Simon plays his mother, Jane. They have a wonderful and tender chemistry onstage. Much of their conversations, particularly their early conversations, revolving around Jane’s father, Dr. Alexander S. Wiener (Len Rella).
|Max Wolkowitz, Maxwell Zener and Alyssa Simon in Doctors Jane and Alexander|
Alexander was a famous doctor who helped develop blood typing and discovered the Rh factor. This work was the precursor of DNA testing and was critical in saving lives of transfusion patients as well in criminal work. But his fame and work is only a small piece of Doctors Jane and Alexander. The piece is built from documentation, whether transcripts of conversations or published material. And much of the conversations with Jane start about her father, but meander away from the topic.
So instead of a dry discussion about the inventor of Rh blood typing, we get a story of family full of expectations and drive. Jane reflects back on her assumption that she would be wildly successful, as her father was. In fact, in a family of doctors and lawyers, the playwright has his own self-doubts about his career. This is a direct reflection of Jane’s appraisal of herself, and it bonds the two characters. Acceptance and enjoyment of life is almost a refutation of the paths they have chosen.
There is plenty of comedy in the play too, much of it provided by the interplay between the playwright, Edward, and his brother, David (Maxwell Zener). They argue as only brothers can, over everything and nothing. The point isn’t the argument, the point is the relationship.
Doctors Jane and Alexander progresses gently, telling the story of Jane’s career path and how it echoes her father’s and son’s. The interviews start directed towards Dr. Wiener’s work, but over time the story of Jane’s life proves compelling. As Edward discovers the real person behind the persona of mother, he finds how much he loves and admires this woman. It is touching without being schmaltzy.
The acting here, particularly Max Wolkowitz and Alyssa Simon, is fantastic. There is an excellent group of players in the other roles as well. And the technical craft, the lighting and sets, are top notch.
There are some missing puzzle pieces. I wanted to understood more about the mental issues both Doctors had. The topic is broached early, then dropped out of deference to the family.
Edward Einhorn wrote and directed this play and it is very much about his own family. But it is much more than a love letter to his family, it is an ode to the people in all families. And an exploration of the rich lives we may not see, even when they are right in front of us.
Doctors Jane and Alexander
Playwright: Edward Einhorn | Director: Edward Einhorn | Cast: Len Ralla, Alyssa Simon, Max Wolkowitz, Maxwell Zener, Craig Anderson, Yvonne Roen, Ann Marie Yoo