'Copenhagen' at Palm Beach Dramaworks a compelling drama
How much of what we remember actually occurred as we remember it? That is the question explored in Copenhagen, Michael Frayn's chatty, abstract play about the horrors brilliant minds can create and the unpredictability of memory. Thanks to taut direction by resident director J. Barry Lewis and stellar performances by a dream cast, the production at Palm Beach Dramaworks isn't rambling and dryly intellectual, which, considering the amount of physics expounded, is a hazard. The play's inspiration is a much-disputed 1941 meeting between Werner Heisenberg, a leader in the Nazis' nuclear research program, and Niels Bohr, Heisenberg's Danish, half-Jewish former mentor. Nobel Prize-winning scientists, their theories paved the way for the atom bomb -- which both sides in the war were racing to develop... ...When the scientists reminisce about the heady days of their early discoveries they sound like ordinary guys rehashing a football game. But the bomb was no game. Neither man wants to accept responsibility for the uses to which his work was put. Colin McPhillamy's Bohr is avuncular, but quite capable of shredding Heisenberg's defenses. Elizabeth Dimon as the skeptical Margrethe is a shrewd if hardly unbiased observer. Christopher Oden's Heisenberg is the most fascinating of all -- a waif-like genius at once eager to be welcomed back into the Bohr fold and tortured by his loyalty to his beloved country. The production values are superior, but Todd Wren's haunting lighting design is particularly notable. Most important, Lewis deserves credit for a well-tuned production that overcomes a garrulous script.