Theater Reviews

Meeting of minds in ‘Copenhagen’By Juliet Schoen

Staff Writer

To build or not to build the atomic bomb is the under-riding question in the new play by Michael Frayn, called “Copenhagen.”

The title refers to the meeting place of two stellar scientists whose earlier working relationship may have helped uncover the mysteries of the atom. The play is based on an actual event that occurred in 1941, during World War II, when Werner Heisenberg, working with the Germans, visited his Danish counterpart, Nils Bohr, and his wife, Margrethe.

Nobody knows exactly what happened at this dangerous confrontation and history has never discovered whether Heisenberg was actually responsible for the fact that Germany did not develop the bomb. The question is never answered in the play, and we are left to draw our own conclusions. Despite the fact the two men shared a happy past in the realm of science, arguments are constantly flaring up, as can be expected from their positions on opposite sides in the war.

All this sounds extremely serious and cerebral, but Frayn’s drama, based on his own imaginative reconstruction, carries us along gingerly despite some technical stretches. Those without a clue about physics can manage very well, thanks to the excellence of the writing and acting.

The drama unfolds on a bare stage with the actors using three chairs as their only props. Some members of the audience, who have paid for the privilege, sit in a tiered gallery behind the actors, gaining a greater sense of involvement. The arrangement also points up Heisenberg’s “Uncertainty Principle,” which states that by seeing something we change it.

Peter J. Davison designed the set, collaborating with director Michael Blakemore.

Three experienced actors take over the roles, led by Len Cariou as Niels Bohr. He is steely-eyed, emotional and tolerant. Opposite him is the younger Hank Stratton as a fast-talking Heisenberg, trying to justify his role in the Hitler regime. Acting somewhat like a referee is Mariette Hartley as Bohr’s wife, Margrethe, who alludes to the past in explaining the present.

A brainy, challenging play is always welcome, and this is a real intellectual frolic.

Plays at the Wilshire Theater through Jan. 7.

Little imagination goes long way

So you never knew that Shakespeare wrote a play called “Pericles.” No wonder. It is seldom studied in a classroom or produced on the stage. However, it is an exciting drama with all the ingredients to make it popular today-murder, intrigue and sex.

A Noise Within, a modest company in Glendale, had the inspiration to exhume the treasure and give it a rousing production.

Pericles, the king of Tyre (no relation to Pericles of Athens) discovers a dirty secret while visiting the king of Antiochus and rushes back to his own country to avoid assassination. Along the way, he has various misadventures, losing (he thinks) his wife and then (he thinks) his child.

However, all’s well that ends well (as someone once wrote) and tears give way to cries of joy.

The actors in “Pericles” take on various roles in this complicated tale, but are easily distinguishable through clever use of different costumes.

Art Manke, the director, has overcome all kinds of difficulties (much like Pericles himself) to convey the various venues quickly and efficiently.

Michael C. Smith is credited with the set design and Alex Jaeger with the costumes.

Pericles is played by Robertson Dean, and an assortment of roles are undertaken successfully by Mark Bramhall, Richard Soto, Emily Heebner, Julia Coffey, Michael Nehring, Anna C. Miller and others.

Ingenuity overcomes a lack of money.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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