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Fission Impossible: 'Copenhagen' at Attic Theatre

CopenhagenProduction.jpg
Joanna Churgin and Richard Lucas in 'Copenhagen.' (Photo courtesy of PR4PLAYS.)
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Copenhagen is an ambitious lecture-within-a-drama about the working and political climate surrounding historically significant World War II era physicists during the development of the first nuclear weapons. Playwright Michael Frayn imagines a fictional post-mortem debate that pits Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr against each other as they exist ambiguously in a purgatorial bomb shelter with Margrethe Bohr. Copenhagen deals with heavy issues including accountability, ethics, friendship, memory construction, and pride within a scientific and historical context.

Under the direction of Lewis Hauser, Copenhagen is reminiscent of a sobering, gray-scale public television documentary comprised only of filmed war footage and a monotone narrator. While possibly intentional and certainly appropriate given the subject matter and after-life setting, Hauser's direction seems almost disinterested and monotonous. Frayn's script is perhaps at fault -- rather than sculpting a drama that fosters a hunger for history and science, it tediously plods along a story comprised of overly-repetitive scenarios and several superfluous elements.

The cast, comprised of Jack Winnick, Joanna Churgin, and Richard Lucas, does their best to overcome the obstacles of Copenhagen. Winnick brings consistent light, geniality, and warmth to the stage as Niels Bohr. It is well known that stage veterans Winnick and Churgin have excellent chemistry together on stage, and this production validates that theatre paradigm once again. As if a testament to her skill, Churgin in the role Margrethe, gives a well-executed performance despite being very sick with a cold. While generally known for his comedic ventures, Lucas proves that he is capable of handling a dramatic stage work while rendering key moments full of animated intensity as Werner Heisenberg. Michael McGee's Copenhagen set design is notably good and perfectly conceptualized.

Copenhagen is playing through April 23, 2011 at Attic Theatre located at 5429 W. Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90016. Tickets are available online or via phone at 323-960-4420.