Serious questions are asked in Copenhagen
photo Greg Lesch CAPTION: COULD THE ATOM BOMB HAVE BEEN AVOIDED?
Michael Fox Kennedy as Neils Bohr in seen here in rehearsal for a scene from Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen opening for a four week run of performances at the Actors Theatre Playhouse.
The 1998 Evening Standard of London Award for Best Play of the Year, and the 2000 Tony, Drama Desk, and New York Drama Critics Circle Awards.
"The most invigorating and ingenious play of ideas in many a year and a work of art that humanizes physics in a way no other has done..." NY Times
"The play’s balance of emotion and ideas is beautifully captured...Frayn builds a brilliant play..." The Guardian
Micahel Frayn’s award winning Copenhagen begins four week run Aug, 28 at Actors Theatre Playhouse
CHESTERFIELD, N.H. - "Why did he come to Copenhagen?" The question - and opening line of Michael Frayn’s extraordinary play - is posed by Margarethe Bohr, wife of physicist Niels Bohr and one of the play’s three characters.
It is 1941 in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, both Nobel Laureate nuclear physicists, are meeting secretly. Heisenberg is in charge of atomic research in Nazi Germany. Bohr would later work on the American nuclear program at Los Alamos. Will what they discuss change the world forever? Could the atomic bomb have been avoided?
That dramatic meeting during World War II has left a trail of controversy among scientists and historians. Frayn’s play vividly dramatizes that controversy for contemporary audiences. What was said at that meeting? Was Heisenberg trying to develop an atomic bomb for Hitler? Or was he trying to prevent its development? Did he want Bohr to use his influence to stop the American bomb program? Did he hope that would give Germany time to win the war with conventional weapons? What was their personal responsibility as nuclear physicists for Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
In preparation for the production over the last nine months, Director Burt Tepfer and his cast read histories, biographies and commentaries about Copenhagen. They even struggled to gain an elementary understanding of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Bohr’s Complementarity, two foundation ideas of modern physics. "I love this play," says Tepfer. "It makes you think hard. I think people will leave the theatre discussing, arguing, and wanting to know more."
Featured in the production are Gregory Lesch as the German physicist Werner Heisenberg, Michael Fox Kennedy as Danish physicist Niels Bohr, and Christopher Emily Coutant as his wife, Margrethe Bohr.
The play premiered in London in 1998 and came to Broadway soon after. Critic Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times in 2000, "The work’s tenacious grip has little to do with straightforward plot Š or the solving of questions that are ultimately unanswerable. Mr. Frayn turns the encounter among the three characters into a wide-ranging, intensely emotional consideration of everything from quantum mechanics to the loss of a child, to the fate of the world in the atomic age, to the ways that friendships go sour; from the theories of complementarity and uncertainty to the eternal ambiguity of human motives and memory.
"Most impressively, Mr. Frayn -- with a logic that keeps moving in variously widening and converging circles -- shows how every one of these elements is bound to, and reflects, the others. The result is the most invigorating and ingenious play of ideas and a work of art that humanizes physics in a way no other has done."
Michael Fox Kennedy, who portrays Niels Bohr in the production, when asked "Why should anyone come see Copenhagen?" paused and gave the question his full attention.
"Because the stakes are so high. The outcome of the war may have been at stake at that meeting in 1941. And even more so today! The fate of the world may hinge on some of the issues raised by Michael Frayn in this play. Have we forgotten the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons in our arsenals, enough to destroy the world many times over? What is our moral responsibility as citizens? What is the responsibility of scientists whose discoveries may lead to unintended consequences dangerous for life on earth?
"Also because Michael Frayn is a masterful playwright as all the awards this play has earned testify. His dialogue and scenes are filled with wit and exuberance, and the creative ‘open stage’ dramatic structure he invented for this drama draws us in deeper and deeper, keeping us all on the edge of our seats. For us actors, these are wonderful parts to play, and wonderful actors to play them with. The three of us have worked together over the years in a variety of productions, and it’s nice to be able to work in depth on such an unusual and brilliant piece of theatre at the Playhouse."
Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays Aug. 28 through Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 on Thursdays and $15 on Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations are highly recommended. The Playhouse toll-free box office can be reached at 877-666-1855.Website: www.ATPlayhouse.org. The Actors Theatre Playhouse Playhouse is located on Corner Brook and Main streets in West Chesterfield.