PORTRAYING THE MANY SIDES OF ALBERT EINSTEIN
by Chuck Graham
“For some actors, every once in awhile, there comes along a role that fits like a shoe. You don’t know why,” said Ed Metzger, a career professional actor who was a student of Lee Strasberg.
Metzger is speaking of the role he created for himself, doing a one-man show as Albert Einstein. The performance is so realistic even members of Einstein’s own family have come backstage to applaud Metzger. The first time that happened was 1978, when Metzger debuted “Albert Einstein: The Practical Bohemian” in Los Angeles.
On Thursday, March 11, Metzger opens a four-show run of “Einstein” at Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
“When I get on the stage as Einstein, it’s like we become one,” the actor continued. “Doing other roles, I always have to work at getting it right, but not with Einstein. Somehow it always clicks.
“You feel it, but you don’t know why. It’s a melding. Maybe I picked him, or he picked me, I don’t know."
Whatever, for more than 30 years Metzger has enjoyed success coast to coast portraying the world’s most beloved physicist. After Metzger’s successful opening in Los Angeles, he played the role off-Broadway. Enjoying these performances so much, he began to look for other bookings.
“That’s when I started thinking of all the cities between New York and Los Angeles. I found out it wasn’t a vast wasteland out there after all,” Metzger added with a chuckle brightening his Brooklyn accent.
Even on the telephone, when Metzger begins talking about Einstein a more intimate familiarity slips into his voice. One of his favorite quotes from the scientist’s mischievous side: “How does anybody know I’m a genius when they don’t understand my work?”
The Theory of Relativity is what most people associate with Einstein. But in this hyper-concerned era of political correctness and pumped up sensitivity, whenever Metzger talks to audiences he discovers Einstein taking a lot of flak from students for inventing the atomic bomb and dropping a couple of them on Japan.
That level of ignorance gets Metzger more than a little livid.
“Einstein always had good relations with the Japanese, and they still value him. He was even put on one of their stamps.
“But Einstein went crazy when he learned Hitler first discovered how to split the atom,” Metzger continued. “That was in 1939. That convinced Einstein to encourage the start of the Manhattan Project.”
Metzger is proud of having the opportunity to set students straight on several such historical fine points.
While he values Einstein’s contributions as both a scientist and a “relative pacifist,” the portrayal doesn’t put Einstein on a pedestal. It includes many aspects of the man’s personality. Such as Einstein’s fondness for women.
So…um…when Einstein was in his 50s, did he party with Marilyn Monroe when she was a Hollywood starlet?
“I knew that question would come up,” laughed Metzger. “It always does.”
“When I first did the show back in Los Angeles in 1978 and his relatives came backstage, they told me Einstein was a great womanizer. So I asked them, ‘Was it true he was a friend of Marilyn Monroe when she was an engenue?’ but they refused to answer.
“Since then I have never been able to confirm it. All I can say is I hope it’s true,” Metzger laughed. His voice had that special tone one guy would use when talking about his best friend.
“Albert Einstein: The Practical Bohemian” opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11, at Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave. Performances continue at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March12-13, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 14. Tickets are $30, discounts for groups of 10 or more. Half-price tickets on sale 30 minutes before each performance, when available. For details and reservations, 882-9721, or visit www.invisibletheatre.com