Richard Dreyfuss: Genius At Work


Richard Dreyfuss still has that giggle, that playful, slightly bad-boy laugh that has resonated in such iconic films as “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “American Graffiti” and in his Oscar-winning performance, “The Goodbye Girl.”....

The laugh erupts many times during an after-rehearsal talk at Hartford’s TheaterWorks, where he is preparing a new play, “Relativity,” by Mark St. Germain (“Freud’s Last Session”). Dreyfuss plays renowned physicist Albert Einstein. But if you think the three-person play is going to be a lighthearted encounter with Mr. Wizard, think again.

St. Germain presents a dramatic speculation based on a little-known fact: In 1902, Albert and Mileva Einstein had a baby daughter, but after 1904, she was never seen or spoken of again. In the play, a young reporter confronts Einstein years later where the scientist must face his past.

Dreyfuss gazes at photographs of Einstein posted in the rehearsal room. “He had a twinkle,” says Dreyfuss, an autodidact with an insatiable interest in history and civics. “People liked him so much. He was ‘the scientist who wore the lederhosen.’ Nobody cared to make judgments about what they knew about his personal life.”

When Dreyfuss first read the script, he told St. Germain, “You’re not hard enough on him,” and as the play progressed through revisions, the character was toughened. Dreyfuss has long been fascinated with the scientist, even writing “An Einsteinian Vaudeville,” an unproduced film script, “because when I read the story of his life, I felt that different parts of his life lent themselves to different genres.”

Dreyfuss, who soon turns 69, has aged from boyish to avuncular, his glasses perched at the end of his nose, his mustache and balding hair a professorial snow white. But the questioning spirit of his hungry youth remains.