Copenhagen (Presented by Black Cat Productions)
Remember that teacher in high school or college, the one who really earned your respect? It may have been a difficult subject, but it was the one class you wanted to be fully prepared for. You never blew it off.
That’s how you should gird yourself to see Copenhagen at the Attic Theatre, just east of Culver City. While you don’t need to know a thing about atomic structure or politics, you will need to focus to get the most out of the play. It might be a little work, but it’s going to be well worth it. (The Broadway production won the Tony Award for Best Play, Best Featured Actress in a Play, and Best Direction of a Play.)
Back in the mid-twentieth century when scientists were rock stars, Niels Bohr was a Danish physicist and Werner Heisenberg was a German physicist and the two of them enjoyed a long mentor/protégé and professional relationship concerning, you guessed it, quantum mechanics. (Both earned Nobel Prizes; Bohr later worked on the Manhattan Project and Heisenberg developed the uncertainty principle.) And then World War II happened. Bohr stayed in Denmark—which was eventually occupied by Germany—while Heisenberg worked on the German’s nuclear projects. Things between the two got frosty, as you might imagine. In 1941, Heisenberg made a mysterious visit to his friend and mentor Bohr and neither man ever disclosed the topic of their discussion.
Those big brains. The political tensions. The monstrosity of the science being developed. Whatever did they talk about that afternoon when so much was at stake?
This is the intensely interesting subject matter of Copenhagen. The characters are Werner Heisenberg, played by Jack Winnick; Richard Lucas plays Niels Bohr; and Joanne Churgin plays Margrethe Bohr. The setting is from the safety of a hypothetical afterlife wherein the three discuss what did and didn’t happen in Copenhagen. While Heisenberg and Bohr discuss morality and science, Margrethe is there to provide honesty, subjectivity, and softness to their remembrances.
Three actors merely walk, talk, sit, and stand on a sparse but cleverly designed stage—kudos to set designer Michael McKee on both the subtlety and depth of his creation. There was long, technical, and difficult dialogue to present but Winnick, Lucas, and Churgin inject all of it with great depth, humanity, and meaning, thanks to their talents and the deft direction of Lewis Hauser. Winnick shows many facets in the way he plays Bohr as a wise yet disenfranchised genius disappointed by his former student. Lucas is masterful as the now powerful yet conflicted mastermind Heisenberg. Churgin is precise in her helmsman ship of their discussion and is the audience’s welcome proxy, keeping us invested and asking our questions.
Engaging, interesting and intense—what more could you ask for two hours of theatre? I’ve never been to Copenhagen, but I’m glad I’ve seen Copenhagen. I’d like to see it again.
Tickets are highly recommended and are available online from Plays411 here -- or call (323) 960-4420 to order by phone.
5429 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016
Street parking. Wheelchair/handicap access.
Now through Saturday, April 23
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Running time is about 2 hours with a 10-minute intermission
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