×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Louis Slotin Sonata

Playwright Paul Mullin has scripted an intriguing, if often redundant, fusion of stark reality and farce-laden surrealism to delve into the psyche of the dying Slotin (William Salyers), who attempts to come to terms with his own doubts while "the invisible killer" disintegrates his body from within.

With:
Louis Slotin - William Salyers Philip Morrison/The Lord - Connor Trinneer Alvin Graves - Dexter Hamlett Israel Slotin - John Combs Annamae Dickie - Ariana Navarre Marion Cieslicki - Richard Augustine Cleary/Black Soldier - Daniel Bryant Louis Hempelmann/Allan Kline - Jeff Goldman Dwight Young - Chis LoPrete Pearlman/Einstein - Tim Sabourin

As one of the sacrificial lambs to the modern world’s need to tame the nuclear monster, the brilliant and daring Canadian-born physicist Louis Slotin (1910-1946) suffered an agonizing death nine days after accidentally exposing himself to a lethal dose of gamma and neutron radiation from the core of a plutonium bomb in Los Alamos, N.M. Playwright Paul Mullin has scripted an intriguing, if often redundant, fusion of stark reality and farce-laden surrealism to delve into the psyche of the dying Slotin (William Salyers), who attempts to come to terms with his own doubts while “the invisible killer” disintegrates his body from within.

Mullin constantly shifts the onstage reality between the fact-based “incident” and its aftermath to the emotional and spiritual interplay of hospitalized Slotin’s often drug-induced fantasies. Though the playwright is guilty of needless thematic overstatement and repetition, it is still fascinating to witness the tragically methodical business of chronicling Slotin’s physical decline, accented by myriad satirical vignettes, including a comical enactment of nuclear fission choreographed to Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood,” the echolike reoccurrence of atomic age slogans (i.e. Oppenheimer’s “I am death, the destroyer of worlds”) and the vision of the Lord (Connor Trinneer) as Harry S. Truman.

The most telling specter is Slotin’s transformation into Nazi Dr. Mengele, known as “the angel of death.” Mullin draws an ominous parallel between Mengele standing at a death camp entrance with a baton conducting the movements of those who would live or die and Slotin’s own deep-seated misgivings at being a member of the Manhattan Project band that orchestrated the annihilation that rained on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Co-directors Jim Anside and Jonathan Westerberg make great use of the Court Theatre’s wide stage space to manifest the constantly shifting dramatic focus but fail to establish a consistently dynamic flow of activity among the ensemble to enhance the playwright’s dramatic throughline. Too often scenic transitions are deflated or sabotaged by awkward pauses and missed cues.

Flubbed lines aside, many of the performances are first-rate. Salyers offers a finely tuned portrayal of the glibly brilliant Slotin, whose basic humanity is in conflict with his egotistical need to be impressive. While conducting the monumentally dangerous demonstration that would kill him, Salyers’ Slotin exudes the lackadaisical air of someone opening a can of peas. And even while he is wasting away in the hospital, haunted by his visions, he can’t help but try to score personality points with the caring nurse (Ariana Navarre) who attends him.

Trinneer is thoroughly believable as Slotin’s anguished closest friend, physicist Philip Morrison, but is less successful in his God transformation, looking and sounding more like Ross Perot than Truman. John Combs is deeply moving as Slotin’s Russian Jewish immigrant father, Israel, who must come to terms with his son’s desire to have his body be an aid to science even though it goes against the father’s Orthodox beliefs. And Navarre effectively projects the ambivalence of nurse Annamae Dickie, who must maintain a professional detachment from her terminal patient while recognizing his deep need to make personal contact with her.

Louis Slotin Sonata

Hollywood Court Theatre; 99 seats; $15 top

Production: A Circle X Theatre Co. presentation of a play in two acts by Paul Mullin, co-directed by Jim Anside and Jonathan Westerberg.

Cast: Louis Slotin - William Salyers Philip Morrison/The Lord - Connor Trinneer Alvin Graves - Dexter Hamlett Israel Slotin - John Combs Annamae Dickie - Ariana Navarre Marion Cieslicki - Richard Augustine Cleary/Black Soldier - Daniel Bryant Louis Hempelmann/Allan Kline - Jeff Goldman Dwight Young - Chis LoPrete Pearlman/Einstein - Tim SabourinScenic design, Gary Smoot; lighting design, Dan Weingarten; costume design/choreographer, Mara West; sound design, Peter Carlstedt; composer, Tim Labor. Opened Nov. 12, 1999, reviewed Nov. 13; closes Dec. 18. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.

More Legit

  • Kiss Me Kate review

    Broadway Review: 'Kiss Me, Kate'

    No, Kate doesn’t get spanked. And for those wondering how the dicey ending of “Kiss Me, Kate” — that musical mashup of “The Taming of the Shrew” and backstage battling exes — would come across in these more sensitive times, well, that’s also been reconsidered for the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival of the Cole [...]

  • Betrayal review Tom Hiddleston

    West End Review: Tom Hiddleston in 'Betrayal'

    It takes three to tango, and Jamie Lloyd’s “Betrayal” completely grasps that. Having made it his mission to modernize the way we stage Harold Pinter’s plays, his chic, stripped-down staging starring Tom Hiddleston as a cuckolded husband might be his best attempt yet. Pared back and played out on an empty stage, this masterful play [...]

  • Johnny Thompson

    Magician Johnny 'The Great Tomsoni' Thompson Dies at 84

    Johnny Thompson, also known as “The Great Tomsoni,” died in Las Vegas on March 9. He was 84. The showman was a versatile performer of music, magic, comedy, and drama throughout his decades long career. Thompson was born to Polish ancestry in Chicago in 1934. He began his career as a musician and musical arranger. [...]

  • The Devil Wears Prada

    'The Devil Wears Prada' Musical Taps Anna D. Shapiro to Direct

    Miranda Priestly can’t call all the shots. The upcoming musical adaptation of “The Devil Wears Prada” has tapped Anna D. Shapiro to direct the show, which is eyeing an eventual Broadway run. The story of an aspiring writer who works for the magazine editor from hell has previously been a best-selling book and a hit [...]

  • Hugh JackmanBrit Awards 2019 Arrivals, London,

    Hugh Jackman Starring in 'The Music Man' Revival on Broadway

    Hugh Jackman will return to Broadway in an upcoming revival of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man.” It marks Jackman’s first musical role in more than a decade, which should make it a hot ticket. His last one, “The Boy From Oz,” resulted in a Tony Award for best actor. Jackman will play con man Harold [...]

  • Gareth Owen sound design

    Listen: The Secrets of Broadway Sound Design

    Sound design might be the most thankless job on Broadway — because when you get it right, nobody notices. Besides, a lot of theatergoers — and more than a few Tony voters — don’t quite know what it is. Listen to this week’s podcast below: More Reviews SXSW Film Review: 'Boy Howdy! The Story of [...]

  • britney Spears Las Vegas Residency Planet

    Britney Spears-Themed Musical Coming to Broadway

    The songs of Britney Spears will be featured in “Once Upon a One More Time,” a musical comedy featuring 23 titles from the singer’s catalog, theater owner James L. Nederlander announced today. The show will have its premiere in fall at Broadway In Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre before heading to Broadway. Previews begin  October 29, with an [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content