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Glenda Frank




“Empathitrax” by Ana Nogueiran. Directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt
at Here, 145 Sixth Ave., NYC.
With Justine Lupe, Jimmi Simpson, Genesis Oliver. Running time: 95 mins.
No intermission.
Sept. 10 - Oct 1. Tickets are $18 general admission and may be purchased at www.here.org or by phoning 212.352.3101.  For more information, visit www.coltcoeur.org.
By Glenda Frank


In “Empathitrax,” a new play by Ana Nogueira at Here, two appealing young singles who have been living together for ten years, happily they claim, want to take their relationship to a new level. Their answer is pharmaceuticals, a new pill designed to heighten intimacy. But all change is inherently dangerous. People who take risks are either optimistic or at their wit’s end.

Jimmi Simpson and Justine Lupe in Emapthitrax by Ana Nogueira, directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt. Photo by Robert Altman.

Empathitrax, the new wonder drug, comes with glowing reviews and personal delivery by a company representative. It is best used with caution, the salesman advises, because the emotional power of the drug requires a delicate balance. Do not, the salesman reminds them, take it before sex for the first few sessions and drink lots of water. The premise is more than interesting. It seems both possible and probable.

The results of their first trial are encouraging. Each can feel the other’s emotions and they are stunned by the intensity. Their love deepens. And that we learn is a good thing because he had moved out for a while and she is heavily into anti-depressants.



Jimmi Simpson and Genesis Oliver in Emapthitrax by Ana Nogueira, directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt. Photo by Robert Altman.

The rest is predictable -- which might not have been a significant problem if the author had done more than fill in her outline for the play. The characters make choices and share revelations without significant motivation. At one point a character takes on a sudden Southern accent. They discuss how she helped him complete his thesis and never learn the discipline, what she contributed, or where she learned the skills. They argue about money – whether to book a trip or purchase a new mattress – without our discovering anything about their jobs or finances. The names of the couple are Her and Him.




Genesis Oliver, Justine Lupe and Jimmi Simpson in Emapthitrax by Ana Nogueira, directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt. Photo by Robert Altman.

The signs that a production is in trouble usually occur early, that an actor can’t figure out the character or that the play is underwritten. Some directors choose scripts that need help because it enables them to showcase their talent. Perhaps that was the draw for Adrienne Campbell-Holt, who is also the Artistic Director of Colt Coeur, the producer. Justine Lupe, who plays Her, is over-the-top cutesy in the opening scenes. Instead of drawing us in, she pushes the play out at us. When she calms down into the lull of depression, she almost disappears into the role Jimmi Simpson as her boyfriend, however, is a real find. His nuanced line readings and seamless arc carry the play. Genesis Oliver reads lines well as the best friend, but he flounders as the salesman. The yipping, never-seen dog they keep in a cage is given far too much stage time. It becomes a problematic metaphor, provocative but also never developed.


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