The David Cromer's 'Effect'

If you're creating a show about science, then how much science do you need to know? That's the question before playwright Lucy Prebble and director David Cromer, who have brought Prebble's play The Effect to the Barrow Street Theatre.

A hit in London in 2012, the piece follows clinical trials for a new super anti-depressant. Two young volunteers -- Connie, a psychology student, and Tristan, a charming drifter -- are taking the drug to discover if there are side effects, and they suddenly tumble into an affair. But are their feelings real or just chemistry? And what happens when things go off the rails?

To some extent, the play is about the nature of love and relationships, and you don't need a chemistry degree to connect with those themes. But still, the scientific terms and concepts are also part of the story.

"The goal is to have the audience with you every minute," says Cromer. "So I try to treat the audience as if I were one of them. I have a theory – it sounds like an excuse to be lazy, and it may in fact be an excuse to be lazy – but I think it is important that I not know too much more than the average audience member. I worry about losing sight of what is going to be perceivable by them if I know a lot of things beforehand. So there isn't anything going on onstage that I don't understand in that regard."

To the end, Cromer says Prebble, whose play Enron came to Broadway in 2010, has been careful not to overload her script with scientific jargon and medical details. But that's not to say the play isn't grounded in facts.