Saturday, October 30, 2021

Vaccine or evolution – That is the question

Vaxed (Photo by Michael Brunk)

Theatre 9/12
At Trinity Church
Through October 3, 2021

A geneticist and an immunologist walk into a bar ― and sit down and discuss the nature of humanity ― Shakespeare and all! Charles Waxberg’s new play, Vaxed, is not shy about tackling a huge question. 

The 90-minute play takes a kind of sci-fi leap into a nearby future where an immunologist Ted (Tyler Scowcroft) thinks he’s discovered an essence that could change humanity forever. He’s called his sister Natalie (Cynthia Geary) to an “emergency” at 3a.m. at which he plans to disclose this possible scientific result.

After finding out that Ted has acted in incredibly illegal and potentially career-ending ways by stealing the remains of a failed vaccination subject, Natalie quickly dispenses with that horror and sits ready to find out why. This is one of a few leaps of theatrical writing in the play that might cause some to do a bit of eyerolling. The dialogue makes it clear that his improprieties could even cause her to lose her career as a top geneticist with international credentials, yet oh well.

They then debate the whole nature of humanity and whether it’s ethical or even necessary to change human behavior through vaccination, as opposed to “evolution.” Finally, Ted’s discovery is revealed as the reason for the need for the 3a.m. visit. It’s another device that ends up weakly justified to amp up drama.

Our mental health and social wellbeing are completely disconnected to biological research, and, as yet, there are no DNA markers for anything connected to cultural behaviors. Is this an area ripe for scientific study beyond social psychology? What if we can find actual biological markers for pedophilia or depression, and eliminate them with an injection of the proper DNA-correcting molecules the way we’re working on sickle cell anemia or cancer?

Can we “eliminate” our way to a better humanity more quickly? Would a vaccine or injected biologic change-agent advance our collective health better than waiting for us to continue to stumble forward at the current glacial rate? Is a vaccination for social ills the same as a vaccination against small pox or polio? It’s an intriguing idea to play with.

The two actors do a fine job with their characters and are believable as brother and sister. Their dialogue is suitably intellectual for scientists, though for the sake of humor, I’d guess, there are some odd cultural references thrown in, particularly by Natalie, that tend to derail the conversation and end up seeming completely out of character. 

Though short, the play still needs a significant trimming because its arguments are circular and repetitive. The “thought experiment” gets a bit tiresome once all the arguments are laid out. But it is “real” theater again ― and it’s ready for you to sit and enjoy. And it could provide a fruitful argument on the way home.

Note: Presume Covid restrictions (masks, vaccines, distancing). 

For more information, go to or call 206-332-7908. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

This is a moderated comment section. Any comment can be deleted if the moderator feels that basic civility standards are not being met. Disagreements, however, if respectfully stated, are certainly welcome. Just keep the discussion intelligent and relatively kind.