Disagreements about the nature of Utopia

“I can understand the abusive texts if it makes Rebecca (the sender) feel better.’ “


Kirsten Foster as May, Mark McKinney as Don, Helen Hunt as Suzanne, Ben Schnetzer as Eli and Susan Kelechi Watson as Carina (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Let’s be clear: Eureka Day is not about people deciding whether or not to have a Covid vaccination.  Jonathan Spector’s play is a satire on Californian Liberal mealy-mouthed parents who well meaningly, err on the side of inclusivity for all.  The difference between those harmed by the Covid vaccination and those hurt by the MMR may appear to be similar but with the Measles Mumps Rubella we are talking not just about children but babies who first have this jab at about a year old. 

Eureka Day is a private primary school in Berkeley set up by affluent parents with Liberal values and tolerance except when it comes to their abiding principles like not tolerating disposable paper or plastic plates on the school premises or gender specific pronouns.  One of the non-hierarchical founders is Suzanne (Helen Hunt) who has had babies over a couple of decades and about whom it is said she continued with eight IVF attempts in order not to give up her involvement with the primary school.

The school’s Executive Committee is meeting.  Introduced by Don (Mark McKinney) some are teachers, some parents, he bends over backwards not to offend anyone with careful use of language and gushing positivity. “We welcome your unique perspective!” he says. We giggle. 

Helen Hunt as Suzanne and Mark McKinney as Don (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

They have a half hour debate on whether to include trans racial adoptee as an ethnicity category, remembering that the suggestion Jewish was rejected at a previous meeting for also being a religion.  The existing ethnicity list is already overly detailed and cumbersome.  It is a comic debate.  The deciding argument is whether the Police would ask about your adoption status.  They recall a school production of Peter Pan which Don says was offensive to Indigenous Americans.  “What about those with an amputated hand?” says I. 

New parent Carina (Susan Kelechi Watson) is condescendingly told that one new parent is always invited to the Executive Committee.  A letter comes from the local Health Board to say that there is an outbreak of mumps and they would recommend excluding those who have not had the MMR vaccine. Suzanne immediately bristles at the idea of excluding any child, and the way in which this letter should be forwarded to parents is discussed.

A couple of weeks later and the first child with a diagnosis of mumps, Patient Zero, results in the meeting of all parents being held by Zoom. As the Committee discuss, we see scrolled above the comments of the participants of extreme views but including one chap called Leslie Kaufman with a dog picture whose “Homer Simpson thumbs up” punctuates remarks.   The comments of the spat are so funny and although we are used to reading surtitles repeating what is being said onstage, the laughter drowns the committee’s heated debate.  Interestingly, the committee appear not to be reacting to text comments, just debating among themselves, but the audience is wrapped.  Yes someone eventually used the word Nazi or was it Fascist in the Zoom scrolling?  I could have watched these witty opinions all night as they scroll up the wall and on across the ceiling of the set. 

Ben Schnetzer as Eli, Susan Kelechi Watson as Carina, Mark McKinney as Don, Helen Hunt as Suzanne as Kirsten Foster as May (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

After the riotous laughter of the First Act, there are two far reaching revelations in the Second Act.  A child has serious and distressing complications from having contracted mumps and one mother reveals how her baby died after receiving the MMR and no matter how many doctors say it was the inexplicable Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, she remains convinced it was caused by MMR. 

This play has so many satisfying themes.  The way the new parent is patronised for her newness and the assumption that she must be on a scholarship for the fees by those preaching inclusivity for fee payers.  Is that not an oxymoron?  Susan Kelechi Watson is very strong as Carina.  As the new parent, when she says something they all disagree with, they take a collective deep breath and a step back.  There are light directorial touches too from Katy Rudd like May (Kirsten Foster)’s animated knitting, her displacement activity, which expresses her reaction to what is being said, sometimes a frantic and furious clicking of the needles into knitting meltdown.  

Ultimately Suzanne sees the change she cannot condone and the loss of control. The school library was books donated by the founding parents who have invested themselves as well as their children in the school’s ethos. Helen Hunt is very well cast as visionary turned reactionary.  Have a gluten free, sugar free, vegan, collective cooked doughnut but don’t fail to laugh at the ridiculous in Eureka Day!

Kirsteb Foster as May (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Production Notes

Eureka Day

Written by Jonathan Sector

Directed by Katy Rudd



Ben Schnetzer

Kirsten Foster

Helen Hunt

Mark McKinney

Susan Kelechi Watson



Rachel Handshaw


Director: Katy Rudd

Designer: Rob Howell

Composer: Jherek Bischoff

Lighting Designer: Jon Clark

Sound Designer: Donato Wharton

Video Designer: Andrzej Goulding


Running Time: Two hours with an interval

Booking to 31st October 2022


Old Vic

The Cut


London SE1 8NB

Tube/Rail : Waterloo

Telephone: 0344 871 7628

Website: oldvictheatre.com

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Old Vic

on 24th September 2021 at the matinée