Good things come in threes: the Trinity, the Stooges and the cast of “Copenhagen.”
Named for its setting in Denmark’s capital, this drama explores the very conversation that converted atomic power to a war force.
The spare cast is certainly a challenge for the actors. Each character has roughly 45 minutes of lines to memorize, which brings the story to its two-hour and 20-minute entirety.
“Copenhagen,” written by Michael Frayn and directed by the Rev. Shawn Clerkin, portrays an interaction between the spirits of scientists Niels Bohr – played by Josh Mizikowski – his wife Margrethe – played Jessica Annunziata – and Werner Heisenberg – played by David Baltusavic – long after their real life meetings in 1941.
“It deals with nuclear physics, atomic energy, World War II, genocide, general ethics… and that’s not even about what the characters want and need,” Clerkin said.
These are certainly heavy issues for three people to bear.
The content makes the play serious, but it challenges its audience as well as the actors.
“You feel smarter coming out of it,” Clerkin said. “There’s great explanations of what was actually going on; you understand Bohr’s model and the potential of uranium because the characters tell it in plain language.”
The challenge comes through in moral questions that are still relevant.
Most college students don’t have nuclear nightmares, but the scientific ethics held in the weight of human life and the power to eliminate it should concern audiences.
Heisenberg’s ghost hints at his responsibility: “Two thousand million people in the world, and the one who has to decide their fate is the only one who’s always hidden from me.”
Copenhagen is really a Pandora’s box, Clerkin said.
“Why did we discover fire? Why do we have the power to burn people? Why did nuclear energy assume weapon forms? These scientists were more concerned with using their power for electricity, and it became violent,” Clerkin said.
The drama provokes these dense questions while giving a brief historical and theoretical chemistry lesson.
Lauren Loop, a junior theatre and communication arts major, said she would be interested in seeing the show because she’s not familiar with the play or the playwright.
“Copenhagen” runs for two weeks and premieres at 8 p.m. Thursday and will play at the same time Friday and Saturday. The show will continue at 8 p.m. February 6-8.
Dramashop’s theater is located on the second floor of the Renaissance Center at 1001 State St. Tickets for “Copenhagen” are $5 with a student ID and $15 for regular admission.
This article by Kelsey Ghering was originally published in The Gannon Knight on Jan. 29, 2014.