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Der
Dramatiker
Jonathan
Spector

BIOGRAFIE: Jonathan Spector is a playwright and screenwriter based in Oakland, California. 

EUREKA DAY (Die Nebenwirkungen)
German Language Premiere
at Burgtheater, Vienna, Austria
directed by Jan Phillipe Gloger
runs in rep through June 2024

THIS MUCH I KNOW
UK Premiere
at Hampstead Theater, London
Directed by Chelsea Walker
Dec 13 - Jan 27 2024

THIS MUCH I KNOW
at Theater J, Washington DC
Directed by Hayley Finn
January 31 - February 25 2024

BEST AVAILABLE
at Shotgun Players, Berkeley
directed by Jon Tracy
​May - June, 2024

Good, Better, Best, Bested

In from the cold

THIS MUCH I KNOW

A tenured professor of psychology, Lukesh enjoys a life as organised and logical as his mind.  But then his wife vanishes, sending only a text message by way of explanation and leaving him to re-evaluate their relationship. He discovers she has embarked on an epic odyssey, crossing and recrossing Russia and delving deep into Soviet history on a quest to unravel a family mystery of which he was unaware – one in which Josef Stalin himself may be involved.

Jonathan Spector’s virtuosic entertainment is at once a love story and a kaleidoscopic primer in psychology, history, and the use and abuse of power. Spector’s other plays include Eureka Day (Old Vic) which won all San Francisco Bay Area’s New Play Awards and was nominated for a New York Drama Critics Award. This Much I Know is his most recent play and won the 2023 Glickman Award and also the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Award for Best New Play.

Chelsea Walker returns to Hampstead to direct following her acclaimed production of Yous Two. Her recent work includes On the Beach (Sheffield), Missing Julie (Theatr Clwyd), Hedda Gabler (Sherman), Cougar (Orange Tree) and A Streetcar Named Desire (ETT).

Lukesh ist Psychologieprofessor und genießt ein Leben, das so organisiert und logisch ist wie sein Verstand.  Doch dann verschwindet seine Frau und schickt als Erklärung nur eine Textnachricht, was ihn dazu veranlasst, ihre Beziehung neu zu überdenken. Er entdeckt, dass sie sich auf eine epische Odyssee begeben hat, auf der sie Russland durchquert und wieder durchquert und tief in die sowjetische Geschichte eintaucht, um ein Familiengeheimnis zu lüften, von dem er nichts wusste - eines, in das Josef Stalin selbst verwickelt sein könnte.

Jonathan Spectors virtuose Unterhaltung ist zugleich eine Liebesgeschichte und ein kaleidoskopisches Lehrstück über Psychologie, Geschichte und den Gebrauch und Missbrauch von Macht. Zu Spectors weiteren Stücken gehört Eureka Day (Old Vic), das alle San Francisco Bay Area's New Play Awards gewann und für einen New York Drama Critics Award nominiert wurde. This Much I Know ist sein neuestes Stück und wurde mit dem Glickman Award 2023 sowie dem Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Award für das beste neue Stück ausgezeichnet.

Chelsea Walker kehrt nach ihrer hochgelobten Inszenierung von Yous Two als Regisseurin nach Hampstead zurück. Zu ihren jüngsten Arbeiten zählen On the Beach (Sheffield), Missing Julie (Theatr Clwyd), Hedda Gabler (Sherman), Cougar (Orange Tree) und A Streetcar Named Desire (ETT).

Refreshingly brisk staging

REVIEWSDEC 21, 2023BY DAVE FARGNOLIHAMPSTEAD THEATRE, LONDON

ARTICLE FROM THE STAGE

Natalie Klamar and Oscar Adams in This Much I Know. Photo: The Other Richard

Jonathan Spector’s dramatically stilted but thematically rich play thoughtfully explores big ideas around guilt, free will and extremism

 

Intriguing, ambitious, and unapologetically cerebral, this philosophical mystery from American author Jonathan Spector poses profound questions about how much control we really have over our lives.

The deliberately elusive story can feel frustratingly incoherent. Spector’s pensive text sprawls in all sorts of unexpected directions, cutting abruptly between distantly connected plot strands. In one, university professor Lukesh delivers an engaging lecture on cognitive psychology, discussing the many biases, mistaken beliefs and mental shortcuts that influence our thinking. Lukesh’s narration becomes increasingly unreliable when his wife Natalya suddenly leaves him to trek around Russia to investigate her family history. At the same time, Lukesh implausibly finds himself overseeing troubled student Harold’s controversial English literature dissertation. And a tangential plotline sees Svetlana Alliluyeva – daughter of Joseph Stalin – giving a revealing press conference after defecting to America.

Director Chelsea Walker gives the overstuffed, slow-moving story a refreshingly brisk staging, creating some much-needed momentum with fluid, lightning-fast transitions between scenes. The three actors each play multiple roles, confidently cutting between personalities. Natalie Klamar is strong both as supremely self-possessed Svetlana and fragile, searching Natalya, traumatised after becoming involved in a fatal car accident. Esh Alladi is convincingly complicated as Lukesh. Smug and overbearing yet insightful, he deploys a deep understanding of psychology to subtly manipulate those around him. But he becomes irritated when they refuse to behave – from his perspective at least – rationally. Alladi shares compellingly terse conversations with Oscar Adams’ Harold, an awkward, intelligent, badly misguided kid raised in a family of white supremacists. Adams convincingly portrays Harold’s inner conflicts, uncritically parroting his father’s moronic ideology one moment, eagerly unpicking those same assumptions the next. When he finally realises how wrong he has been all his life, his newfound cognisance comes in a breathless rush of shame and liberating sincerity. Adams also plays several underwritten Russian characters with whom Natalya interacts during her search, trying perhaps too hard to make each distinct with overwrought mannerisms. Their accents range from passable to distractingly exaggerated.

Blythe Brett’s design has a striking, stark aesthetic. Much of the action takes place in an austere lecture theatre, all stiff grey carpet and white walls, but Bethany Gupwell’s clear lighting design lends additional dimension: deep shadows close in during moments of introspection; flares of dazzling white light suggest the flashes of paparazzi cameras. Duncan McLean’s video projections visualise the enigmatic text messages that Natalya sends while in transit, interspersed with old photos of Russian families and airbrushed portraits of Stalin. Though all these unrelated elements never quite cohere, the play is a stimulating, thought-provoking puzzle.

 

Production Details

Production nameThis Much I Know

VenueHampstead Theatre

LocationLondon

Starts13/12/2023

Ends27/12/2023

Press night20/12/2023

Running time2hrs 20mins

AuthorJonathan Spector

DirectorChelsea Walker

Movement directorMichela Meazza

Set designerBlythe Brett

Costume designerBlythe Brett

Lighting designerBethany Gupwell

Sound designerHolly Khan

Vocal/dialect coachGurkiran Kaur

Cast includesEsh Alladi, Natalie Klamar, Oscar Adams

Production managerSkip Francis

Stage managerCaoimhe Regan

ProducerCelia Atkin, Hampstead Downstairs

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