The Effect

West Coast Premiere

March 20 to April 28, 2018

Tickets: from $35

Estimated run time: 2 hours




The Effect

Written by Lucy Prebble

Directed by Bill English

“Both funny and devastating … [A] beautifully realized, provocative play.” – San Francisco Examiner

“Just as smart about the implications of mood-altering drugs as it is well-directed by Bill English for San Francisco Playhouse.” – San Francisco Chronicle

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Connie and Tristan are falling head-over-heels in love—or is that just a side effect? As volunteers in a clinical trial for a new super-antidepressant, they can’t really be sure. As their sudden romance heats up, they’re left wondering if they can believe their own feelings, and their doctors are forced to consider the ethical consequences of their work. Winner of the UK Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Play, The Effect takes on our pill-popping culture with humor and scintillating drama.



Photos by Jessica Palopoli.


Behind the Scenes


Lucy Prebble

Lucy Prebble’s latest play THE EFFECT won best new play at the Critic’s Circle Awards. It played at the National Theatre directed by Rupert Goold and co-produced with Headlong in the winter of 2012 to superb reviews. Lucy was selected as a finalist for the 2013-14 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Lucy is under commission to the Royal Court and writing a drama for the BBC with Tiger Aspect. She was also Head Scene Writer for Bungie’s hugely successful video game, DESTINY, and in 2015 she wrote and shot a pilot for HBO with Sarah Silverman. Her play, ENRON, transferred to The West End and Broadway in 2010 after sell out runs at both The Royal Court and Chichester Festival Theatre. Lucy is currently adapting it for Sony Pictures. In addition to the critical acclaim it has received, ENRON also won the award for Best New Play at the TMA Theatre Awards, and was shortlisted for The Evening Standard Award and Olivier Award for Best New Play. Lucy created the TV series SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL, starring Billie Piper. SECRET DIARY enjoyed three series and was sold to Showtime, the major US channel famed for its daring dramas. Lucy won the prestigious George Devine Award 2004 for her play THE SUGAR SYNDROME in May 2004, followed by the TMA Award for Best New Play in October 2004. She also won the 2004 Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright. Lucy’s first one act play, LIQUID, was selected for performance at the National Student Drama Festival 2002 where Lucy received the PMA Most Promising Playwright Award.

San Francisco Playhouse’s production of The Effect is made possible by Executive Producer Buffington Clay Miller; Producers Bill & Janet McAllister; David and Colleen Leof; Associate Producers Mary & Tom Foote, Margot Golding, Erwin Kelly & Bruce Campbell; and Artistic Underwriters Tom & Stephanie Lima and Mike Smith.

San Francisco Playhouse | 450 Post St. Floor 2M, San Francisco CA 94102 | (415) 677-9596

“Love at 1st dose: a test-lab tale in SF Playhouse’s The Effect” – San Francisco Chronicle

“San Francisco Playhouse’s production, with its excellent cast and its sensitive direction by Bill English, captures every nuance in this layered and unpredictable tale of a scientific experiment gone disastrously awry.” – San Francisco Examiner

“Is it love or chemistry? … San Francisco Playhouse tackles that question in a particularly visceral way” – Mercury News

The Effect raises difficult questions without lecturing the audience or proposing easy answers. ” – Stark Insider

“The love story of Connie and Tristan is fun, furious, and fulfilling.” –Theatre Eddys

“Playwright Prebble’s storytelling skills are on full display here.” – Talkin’ Broadway

“The West Coast premiere of Lucy Prebble’s The Effect artfully explores the mysteries of love–with spectacular staging by Director Bill English.” – Theatrius

“A thoughtful, often humorous and superbly acted look into a drug study that asks more questions than it answers.” – For All Events

” Under Bill English’s sensitive direction, the romance between Connie (Ayelet Firstenberg) and Tristan (Joe Estlack) develops gradually.” – Pacific Sun

The Effect is a well-done theatrical rarity that entertains, informs, and provokes in equal measure.” – Aisle Seat Review


Joseph Estlack

Joe Estlack

Joe Estlack was last seen in Blasted at the Shotgun Players’ Ashby Stage. He has appeared in the San Francisco Playhouse productions of Jerusalem, Promises, Promises, She Loves Me, and Stupid Fucking Bird, for which he won a TBA Award. He is a founding member of Mugwumpin. More at


Susi Damilano

Susi Damilano is co-founder and Producing Director of the San Francisco Playhouse. She is a five-time recipient of the Bay Area Theatre Critic Circle (BATCC) award for Best Female Performance in Abigail’s Party, Harper Regan, Bug, Six Degrees of Separation, and Reckless. At the Playhouse she has performed leading roles in BarbecueThe RoommateRed Velvet, Tree, Bauer, Abigail’s Party, Harper Regan, Coraline, Slasher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Landscape of the Body, First Person Shooter, Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, The Crucible, Kimberly Akimbo, Our Town and The Smell of the Kill. Directing credits include Playhouse productions of Born YesterdayNoises OffShe Loves MeStage Kiss, Company, Stupid Fucking BirdInto the Woods, A Behanding in Spokane, Den of Thieves and Wirehead** ; the West Coast Premieres of Honey Brown Eyes**, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Coronado, The Mystery Plays and Roulette and the world premieres of Steven Dietz’s On Clover Road, Rhett Rossi’s From Red to Black and Daniel Heath’s Seven Days in the Sandbox Series. (**nominated for BATCC Directing award.)


Ayelet Firstenberg

Ayelet Firstenberg is excited to return to the Playhouse, having previously appeared in last season’s She Loves Me. Off Broadway credits include Pinkalicious and Angelina Ballerina at Vital Theatre. Bay Area credits include The Prince of Egypt at TheatreWorks (World Premiere); Noises Off at Pacific Coast Rep; The Wild Party at Ray of Light; and The Red Demon at Theatre of Yugen. She has also appeared in multiple workshops and staged readings at ACT, Shotgun Players, Golden Thread, PlayGround, and Custom Made. As a playwright, two of her short works were recently featured in Planets & Branches at PianoFight.


Robert Parsons

Robert Parsons is happy to be returning to San Francisco Playhouse where he has appeared in Colossal, Slasher and Six Degrees of Separation. Other Bay Area credits include work at American Conservatory Theatre (Rock ‘N Roll, The Little Foxes, The Black Rider, Buried Child) Magic Theatre (A Lie of the Mind, Pleasure and Pain, The Lonesome West, The American in Me), Aurora Theatre Company, (A Bright New Boise, Private Jokes/Public Places), Shotgun Players (Blasted, The Three Sisters) as well as appearances at TheatreWorks, Word for Word, Cutting Ball, Marin and SF Shakespeare Festivals, Marin Theatre Company, San Jose Stage Company, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Regional credits include work at Ford’s Theatre, Ahmanson Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Huntington Theatre Company, Alley Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company and The Sydney Festival. Robert is a founding member of Symmetry Theatre Company.


Adam Elder

Adam Elder is a graduate of the William Esper Studio in New York, where he studied under master teacher Bill Esper.  His Bay Area credits include San Francisco Playhouse’s On Clover Road, Shotgun Players Nora, Roustabout Theater Company’s Betrayal and A Moon for the Misbegotten, and Inferno Theater’s King Lear.


Jensen Power

Jensen Power is thrilled to be making her San Francisco Playhouse debut. Recent credits include Orlando (ACT Fellowship Program), Erinyes & Eumenides (Undiscovered Works series reading), and the FlashPlays! One Act Festival (The Playwrights Foundation). She is a Kansas City native and a graduate of St. Olaf College.