The reviews are in for Eureka Day, which has opened at the Old Vic theatre starring Oscar winning actress and director Helen Hunt.
This is the European premiere of Jonathan Spector’s award-winning off-Broadway play, a timely comedy set during a mumps outbreak in California in 2017. As the school community weighs up questions of vaccination, their democratic utopia is torn apart when polite debate descends into ideological warfare.
Directed by Katy Rudd (Camp Siegfried, The Ocean at the End of the Lane), the play is a co-production with The Old Vic and Sonia Friedman Productions and reunites the team behind the highly acclaimed The 47th.
Joining Helen Hunt in the cast is Kirsten Foster (Life of Pi), Mark McKinney (Superstore), Ben Schnetzer (Pride), and Susan Kelechi Watson (This Is Us).
Eureka Day runs until 31 October 2022 at the Old Vic in London.
More reviews to follow.
Eureka Day reviews
"Helen Hunt is an anti-vaxxer on the attack in anti-woke satire"
"What begins as a broad takedown of the liberal left morphs into an engrossing and textured debate on social justice, vaccination and the pull of conspiracy theory"
"... beneath its broadsides, Jonathan Spector’s 2018 play has a serious-minded core which grapples with the organisation of power and the masking of privilege in groups"
"... the cast is strong, covering over the smaller cracks of the script, and the starry names in it give slow-burn starry performances: Hunt is at ease on stage, her character growing in brittle power. Kelechi Watson is arguably even better as the outsider who makes her lone stand."
"Helen Hunt is excellent in this smart US comedy about a liberal schoolboard that collapses into infighting over a vaccine mandate"
"At first glance it feels staggering that Jonathan Spector’s comedy about a hyper-liberal American school that goes into meltdown over mandatory vaccination dates from 2018, is well before the pandemic. On reflection, though, ‘Eureka Day’ isn’t so much prophetic as perceptive."
" ‘Eureka Day’ is just lacking a bit of the heft and muscle it needs to really storm this stage. Spector doesn’t have the ruthlessness of, say Bruce Norris: nobody does anything irredeemable, everyone is kind of let off the hook by the end. It’s a funny play, and a perceptive play, but it’s not a daring play."
"This anti-woke satire is exactly what the Old Vic needed"
"Oscar-winner Helen Hunt makes her London debut in a revival of Jonathan Spector’s timely 2017 play about an anti-vaxxer parent"
"Eureka! Have they got it? Is our theatre finally awake to the ludicrous – and also pernicious – side of woke? To me, it feels like a turning-point that the Old Vic has ushered on to its stage Eureka Day, Jonathan Spector’s very sharp, very droll satire on the duplicities and deficiencies of progressive group-think – first seen in the States in 2017."
"Never hits home"
"Given the trauma of the pandemic, you’d think the play would feel needle-sharp. Not so. In Katy Rudd’s highly coloured production, it’s as hollow as the echo chambers it lampoons, its characters cartoonish and its satire of liberal pieties unrevealing, if sporadically entertaining. The presence in the cast of Oscar winner Helen Hunt doesn’t come close to making its wearying verbosity seem worthwhile. She’s perfectly competent; but like everyone here, she simply doesn’t have enough to work with."
"Helen Hunt superbly is understated in her London debut"
"The Oscar-winning actress has chosen a collegiate unstarry vehicle where the star is the incisive script"
"Although Oscar-winner Helen Hunt is the big name in Jonathan Spector’s sly US comedy about freedom and tolerance, it’s really an ensemble piece where the star is the incisive, witty script."
"Though Spector isn’t above lampooning both woo-woo progressives and swivel-eyed conspiracists, there are clever nuances here and throughout the script"
"Hunt is superbly understated, never begging sympathy for Suzanne. Watson is very good too at demonstrating Carina’s gradual acclimatisation to the community’s terms of engagement, while McKinney joyfully suggests what Owen Wilson will be like when - if - he grows up."
"Helen Hunt adds star power to satire of liberal sanctimony"
"This is the play that would have helped to keep us sane during lockdown. Jonathan Spector’s comedy, set in an achingly right-on private school in Berkeley, California, had its first performance (in Berkeley) in 2018, yet it captures the passions over vaccination and misinformation that bubbled up at the height of the pandemic."
"Katy Rudd’s breezy production has Hollywood star power in the form of Helen Hunt, who delivers an unflashy display as a painfully sanctimonious parent-governor. It’s a testament to the quality of Spector’s writing that you end the evening feeling a smidgin of sympathy for her."
"Timing Is Almost Everything for This Vaccine Comedy Starring Helen Hunt in London"
"... in its sharp U.K. premiere starring Helen Hunt, this often very funny satire about parental attitudes to an outbreak of mumps has suddenly leapt into focus — since it’s really about fiercely personal, highly politicized responses to enforced vaccination"
"Katy Rudd’s clean, zesty, well-acted production occasionally feels as if the contrast has been turned up too high, not least in the costume design which does too much signaling: we know Suzanne by her Birkenstocks, and did the headteacher always have to be in shorts and sandals, with socks, and then an added scarf?"
"Culture wars go ballistic in Eureka Day at the Old Vic"
"With Eureka Day, Spector is wading into the hornets’ nest of today’s culture wars."
"It’s not hard to satirise both well-meaning liberals and conspiracy theorists, but Spector does it extremely well. The test is whether the play pushes beyond that into something deeper. That’s the job of the second half, which switches mood, building to a crunch meeting between Suzanne and Carina"
"It’s restlessly clever and thought-provoking, and Hunt and Kelechi Watson are excellent, keeping the sympathies moving and raising unsettling points, not least the ways we convince ourselves that our own opinions are entirely rational. The ending asks difficult questions about inclusivity, consensus and the way we handle dissent."
"A new anti-vax satire needs more than a shot of Helen Hunt’s star power"
"In turning over the debate between vaxxing and anti-vaxxing, the play grazes the surface of some interesting problems – most particularly when it raises the question of the influence of big pharma – but these are pop-up points rather than developed arguments."
"Everything in Katy Rudd’s quick production is as bright as Rob Howell’s primary-coloured set. Eureka Day does not provide a eureka moment."
"Eureka! Here’s the first copper-bottomed hit of the autumn season – and the fact that it stars the Oscar-winning actress Helen Hunt is just one of its myriad attractions."
"Jonathan Spector’s deliciously sharp satire, a big success off-Broadway, was written before the Covid pandemic. But now it appears uncannily prescient of what was to come, with its arguments about vaccinations ringing especially sharp and clear."
"Hunt is a master of carefully controlled emotion as Suzanne makes a revelation that has us feeling for her, if not agreeing with her. Kelechi Watson is delightful to watch as Carina grows in confidence, working her way to the top of the committee’s supposedly non-existent hierarchy. For all the good intentions in the world, Spector reminds us, hard decisions eventually must be made."