Jonathan Spector is an award-winning playwright who has had several plays premiere in Berkeley. Credit: Cheshire Isaacs

Jonathan Spector, the writer of “Eureka Day” debuting in London in September, returns to Aurora Theatre Company Sept. 2 with his new play, “This Much I Know.”

Spector’s new play was inspired by Daniel Kahneman’s book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”  A voracious reader, Spector says books are a major influence on his work. 

“Something about Kahneman’s book and the way ideas are laid out struck me as very theatrical. So I began the journey of trying to draw something out that could live on stage,” Spector said.

The new play focuses on a psychology professor (not Khaneman) and his all-too-personal lectures, in which he attempts to unravel a mystery concerning his wife, Natalya.

Rajesh Bose in rehearsal, as a psychology professor searching for his wife in “This Much I Know.” Credit: Aurora Theatre Co.

This search brings together the stories of Stalin’s daughter defecting to America, the struggling son of a white supremacist, and the secret anguish of an accidental killer.  The play asks, how do we truly make decisions? How do we change our minds? And what does it mean to be complicit?

“It’s exploring the space between culpability and responsibility and how much we are responsible for the things we don’t consciously choose,” said Spector.

Eureka Day’s success

Spector’s earlier play, “Eureka Day” was critically acclaimed across the board and garnered the type of reviews that playwrights dream of.  Lily Janiak of The San Francisco Chronicle called it, “…so crisply defined that you might have to periodically remind yourself that you haven’t already met these characters…. Josh Costello’s direction makes this group as intimate as family.”

Teddy Spencer and Charisse Loriaux in Jonathan Spector’s Eureka Day when it ran in Berkeley in 2018. Credit: David Allen

And Vinson Cunningham of The New Yorker wrote that the play is, “so brilliantly yoked to the current American moment — its flighty politics, its deadly folly — that it makes you want to jump out of your skin… I’m still trying to figure out how hard is appropriate for a critic to laugh at the theatre; this night, I made myself hoarse.” 

And finally, Ben Brantley of The New York Times called it, “The perfect play for our age of disagreement… [Eureka Day] is not only one of the funniest plays to open this year, it is one of the saddest.”

Josh Costello, Aurora’s Artistic Director, directed “Eureka Day” and is directing “This Much I Know.”

“Ongoing playwright-director collaborations,” he said, “like the one Jonathan and I share, and the collaborations between a theater like Aurora and an array of local and national playwrights like Cleavon Smith, Barbara Damshek, and Dustin Chinn, lead to excellent work and support the theater’s ability to tell stories that speak to the rapidly-changing world we’re living in. Playwrights are our visionaries, and I’m so pleased that Aurora can support their work with our Originate+Generate new play development program.”

That program led to the successful collaboration resulting in an extended run of “Eureka Day” at Aurora. Within two years, it was a hit in New York, off-Broadway.

“I’ve been lucky,” Spector said, “to have the support of many collaborators through workshops and residencies with a small army of organizations — Berkeley Rep, New Harmony Project, Playwrights Foundation, Manhattan Theater Club, Playwrights Center, PlayPenn. “Each one was crucial in its own way.”

On Sept. 6 “Eureka Day” opens at the Old Vic, one of London’s most prestigious and beloved theaters, with Oscar-, Golden Globe-, and Emmy-winner Helen Hunt cast as the lead.

“We’re all so pleased to see a play that started at Aurora go on to touch so many people across the country and internationally. While it’s great to present the work of accomplished playwrights from places like New York, I love that we’re also providing opportunities for Bay Area playwrights to tell locally specific stories like ‘Eureka Day’ and to see those stories resonate even beyond our own community,” said Costello.

To experience the Originate+Generate Program come to life, visit and purchase tickets to “This Much I Know,” premiering at Aurora Theatre Company Sept. 2. 

The Aurora Theatre Company is on Addison Street in downtown Berkeley. Credit: Aurora Theatre Company