Love goggles?

The cast of The Effect, from left, Juan-Andres Apodaca as Tristan, Geoffrey Pomeroy as Dr. Sealey, Danielle Reddick as Dr. James, and Alexandra Renzo as Connie; photo Colin Hovde

Testosterone, estrogen, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin — these are a few of the chemicals associated with lust, attraction, and attachment, respectively. They’re also chemicals that can be introduced into the system through pills. So when under the influence of antidepressants, Connie and Tristan, characters in British playwright Lucy Prebble’s 2012 play The Effect, are up against a quandary: Is their love real or is it a byproduct of medication?

The Effect, a dark comedy, is the inaugural production of the Santa Fe Playhouse’s centennial season. The chemistry between Connie (Alexandra Renzo) and Tristan (Juan-Andres Apodaca), who meet at a clinical drug trial, raises serious questions for the supervising physicians, not to mention themselves. Would the lovers share a mutual attraction were it not for the effects of dopamine?

The Effect looks at mental health from two different points of view,” says director Robyn Rikoon, artistic director at the Playhouse. “One doctor has never experienced depression and wants to treat it with the power of Big Pharma, and one doctor has experienced depression and advocates for a more holistic approach to healing. The scenario that Lucy Prebble creates inside the medical testing facility feels especially relevant today because of the isolation we’ve all been through during the pandemic and the mental health crises that it’s brought up for many of us. And because, ultimately, reality is a little bit subjective.”

While it may offer no definitive answers to its nature versus nurture scenario, The Effect triggers dialogue about brain chemistry, depression, and love in an era of proliferating chemically induced states.

The cast includes Geoffrey Pomeroy as Dr. Sealey and Danielle Reddick as Dr. James.

The Effect opens with a 7:30 p.m. performance on Thursday, March 17, and continues through April 3. Production times are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays

General admission is $30 with discounts available, $50 for reserved seating, and $75 for premium reserved seating. Season subscriptions are available. Tickets can be purchased at santafeplayhouse.org or by calling 505-988-4262.

The Santa Fe Playhouse’s centennial season comes after two years of social and psychological upheaval, and the season reflects the collective reckoning we face in our lives on personal and communal levels.

Upcoming productions include Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance (April 23 through May 15), Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’ Everybody (June 8 through July 10), and the anonymously, but locally, scripted Centennial Santa Fe Fiesta Melodrama (Aug. 27 through Sept. 18).

Santa Fe Playhouse, 142 E. DeVargas St., 505-988-4262, santafeplayhouse.org

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