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Though it is billed as a world premiere, it might be kinder to call this new play a work-in-progress. Written in collaboration by David Ellenstein, who directs it, with Marc Silver, who performs the solo role, the show consists of a rambling monologue, delivered under mysterious circumstances by an actor called Hank who sometimes assumes the persona of Dr. Albert Einstein, a character Hank also impersonates at schools (as does Silver in real life) for the education of children. But should I reveal the secret story of the plot? Well, why the heck not! It's almost the only clear way to describe this murky show and its problems.

The playwrights have employed the old it-was-all-a-dream device. Their climactic revelation is that everything has been hallucinated during a coma precipitated by Hank suicidally inhaling carbon monoxide after learning that his young son has drowned. There is, of course, for those who remain alert, much foreshadowing of this in the script, with its many phantasmagorical elements and hints, as well as in Marty Burnett's surreal setting, which represents Hank's apartment, framed and interpenetrated by starry heavens and chalkboard equations, and filled with Einstein pictures, with more than a dozen clocks indicating different times, and with inexplicable (until the climax) hospital equipment. Mike Buckley's lighting and M. Scott Grabau's sound design also contribute strongly to a dreamy ambience.

This is potentially harrowing stuff, although the facts behind Hank's coded fantasies and his unbearably real pain are not disclosed until almost the end. Nevertheless, the show in its current state—despite running only an uninterrupted 80 minutes—could nearly render an audience comatose, too. There's genuine drama in this somewhere, but it all seems concealed and delayed. No doubt Ellenstein and Silver are already sharpening their pencils for rewrites.

"Einstein Comes Through," presented by and at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 D Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach. Wed.-Sat. 8 pm, Sun. 2 & 7 pm. Jan. 22-Feb. 6. $24-$27. (858) 481-1055.

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