AN IMPRESSIVE BALANCING ACT OF SCIENCE AND HUMANITY
You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist to fully appreciate Copenhagen but it certainly does helps if you are.
Michael Frayn’s play, which theorizes more than it can possibly prove, is compressed by focal science-speak with particles of sharp wit orbiting around accelerated bits of tension. A theatrical masterpiece like this not only comes once in a very long time, it radiates waves of humanitarian questions always forgotten in times of conflict.
At the nucleolus of the script is a reimagined visit between Niels Bhorg (Neils Bohr) and Werner Heisenberg (Ada Kawa), two leading physicists that revolutionized quantum mechanics as Nazi Germany advanced on its European neighbours. Bhorg supported the allies; Heisenberg remained loyal to the enemy.
Set in neither the past nor the present, Copenhagen exists in purgatory state when the principal participants have long since died. Mediating the proceedings of the unexpected sojourn is Niels wife, Margrethe Bohr (Kyra Harper)
No one knows precisely why Heisenberg contacted Bhorg or what was said between the men. Did Heisenberg visit out of ego? Did the two scientists discuss persuading their governments to abandon their nuclear programs for the sake of humanity? Did Heisenberg have the capacity to deliver the bomb before the allies could? Or was his efforts hindered because Hitler had exiled the Jewish scientists who had the smarts to do so?
Michael Frayn, who deserves an A+ for his homework on math, science, and history, introduces a plethora of intellectual and emotional possibilities as to what may have transpired. Like a scientist that sets out to authenticate a theory, the playwright searches equally as hard for historical truth in the mysteries of the past.
What a treat it is to see both Diego Matamoros and Kawa Ada interact like this while embracing such a monumental moral dilemma.
The elder churns out arresting anxiety in the presence of uncertainty. The younger is superb as Werner Heisenberg in his loyalty over national pride and deep concern for the economically depressed and war ravaged German population.
Kyra Harper makes the most as the watchful wife keeping the conversation in layman’s terms whenever possible. She’s an actress with the skill to make you believe anything she chooses.
Katrina Darychuck succeeds in her blocking strategy, an essential element to a set design comprised of a few pieces of furniture and a hole in the centre of the stage. During key exchanges of dialogue the director revolves the cast around one another in a bold metaphor to mimic atomic particles.
Funny, moving, and uncanny—Copenhagen is a theatrical explosion that shakes the foundation of the mind and soul.
COPENHAGEN by Michael Frayn YOUNG CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto DATES April 10 – May 4, 2019 TICKETS $20.00 – $107.00 www.soulpepper.ca 416-866-8666 CAST Kawa Ada, Diego Matamoros and Kyra Harper DIRECTOR Katrina Darychuk SET AND LIGHTING Lorenzo Savoini COSTUMES Gillian Gallow SOUND DESIGN Richard Feren STAGE MANAGER Rebecca Eamon Campbell