This is the “Year of Science” at Furman, and many activities have been planned to highlight the sciences, including dedication of the new Townes Center for Science later this season. One of the activities is a production of Michael Frayn’s “Copenhagen” at the Furman Playhouse. We (and about half of the chemistry faculty) went to see it last night.
“Copenhagen” is based on the historical meeting of Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in Copenhagen in 1941. Heisenberg, a German, was visiting his old friend and mentor, whose homeland was occupied by Germany, so the meeting was less than cordial. Bohr’s wife, Margarethe, rounds out the list of characters. The play deals with multiple deep subjects on multiple levels. There is quite a bit of discussion of quantum physics, but also discussions of the elusiveness of memory and the moral obligations in the pursuit of science and research.
Laura and I are both very familiar with the play. We first read it, then traveled to Williamsburg, VA to see a production of it by our friend Richard Palmer at William and Mary in 2003. In 2005 Center Stage Theater here in Greenville put on a production. We were quite looking forward to Furman’s production.
Since this is early in Furman’s academic year, three professors took on the roles in the play, rather than students. Kevin Treu played Heisenberg, Doug Cummins played Bohr, and Margeret Oakes played Margarethe Bohr. As with other productions, the setting is sparse, consisting of only three chairs. The stage floor was painted with an abstract design that hinted at atomic orbits, which helped visualize some of the complex discussion of physics.
We always compared any production of this play to the one we saw in Williamsburg as our standard. While well acted, this production was not as tight as the previous two performances. The actors occasionally stumbled over lines, and there were one or two miscued entries. This play has very tight dialogue, and requires precise timing to pull it off. Even so, Treu and Cummins brought more humanity and emotion to the two scientists than I had seen in the previous productions. The depth of conflict between the two was palpable. Despite the occasional misstep, it was still an excellent performance, and we enjoyed watching it with lots of our Furman friends.
“Copenhagen” is playing through next weekend at Furman. If you have a chance, you should try to see it.