Is your personal history a set of beliefs or a string of DNA? And if science contradicted your beliefs — if your genes revealed a surprising past or predicted an awful future — would you want to know? These thorny questions propel Deborah Zoe Laufer’s thoughtful but heavy-handed Informed Consent, crisply directed by Liesl Tommy.
Jillian (Tina Benko) is a genetic anthropologist with a traumatic past: Her mother had early-onset Alzheimer’s, and she has the same frightening gene. So when she embarks on a groundbreaking study that examines the isolated gene pool of a Native American tribe, she’s thrilled.
She can cure the tribe’s diabetes while uncovering their genetic origins. Such discoveries could jumpstart her career enough to focus on an Alzheimer’s treatment.
But Jillian doesn’t heed the Southwestern tribe’s beliefs. Rooted in the Grand Canyon, its members aren’t interested in learning that they walked over from Asia. (The play was inspired by a real-life court case; Laufer’s title refers to the question of what the tribe agreed to when they gave Jillian their blood.) Meanwhile, Jillian wants to test her daughter for the Alzheimer’s gene, but the discovery might destroy the family.
Unfortunately, Laufer turns drama into lecture, and Jillian’s personal struggle drowns out the more interesting public one. Science can bring us to scary new places — but this play doesn’t take us anywhere we haven’t been before.
By Deborah Zoe Laufer
The Duke on 42nd Street
229 West 42nd Street