×
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

  • Hugh Jackman'To Kill a Mockingbird' Broadway

    'To Kill a Mockingbird's' Starry Opening: Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and More

    The Shubert Theatre in New York City last was filled on Thursday night with Oscar winners, media titans, and, of course, Broadway legends who came out for the opening of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The starry guest list included Oprah Winfrey, Barry Diller, “Les Misérables” co-stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Gayle King, [...]

  • Pat Gelbart Obit Dead

    Actress Pat Gelbart, Wife of 'MASH' Creator, Dies at 94

    Pat Gelbart, widow of late “MASH” creator Larry Gelbart, died surrounded by family at her home in Westwood, Calif. on Dec. 11. She was 94. Gelbart was born in Minneapolis, Minn. in 1928 as Marriam Patricia Murphy. When she met her husband, Gelbart was an actress, known for the 1947 musical “Good News,” in which [...]

  • To Kill a Mockingbird review

    Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

    Against all odds, writer Aaron Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher have succeeded in crafting a stage-worthy adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The ever-likable Daniels, whose casting was genius, gives a strong and searching performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town Southern lawyer who epitomizes the ideal human qualities of goodness, [...]

  • Isabelle HuppertIsabelle Huppert Life Achievement Award,

    Isabelle Huppert, Chris Noth to Appear on Stage in 'The Mother'

    Isabelle Huppert will appear opposite Chris Noth in the Atlantic Theater Company’s production of “The Mother.” It marks the U.S. premiere of the show. “The Mother” was written by French playwright Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton. Huppert, an icon of European film, was Oscar-nominated for “Elle” and appears in the upcoming Focus Features [...]

  • Could Anyone Follow ‘Springsteen on Broadway’?

    Could Anyone Follow 'Springsteen on Broadway'? Here Are Five Things They'd Need (Guest Column)

    After 235-odd shows, with grosses in excess of $100 million, a Special Tony Award and a hotly anticipated Netflix special debuting Sunday, “Springsteen on Broadway” is an unprecedented Broadway blockbuster. As with any success in entertainment, the rush to replicate The Boss’ one-man show reportedly is under way, with a consortium led by Live Nation, CAA [...]

  • Clueless review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Clueless' the Musical

    How does a musical stage adaptation of Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film comedy of oblivious privileged teens, “Clueless,” play in the era of female empowerment and millennial engagement? True, the principal skills of lead teen Cher Horowitz are the superficial ones of mall shopping and makeovers. But her sweet spirit and independence, plus some added P.C. relevance, [...]

  • Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary,

    Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary, 'Hugo Cabret' Musical

    Producers Tim Headington and Theresa Steele Page have unveiled Ley Line Entertainment with a Brian Wilson documentary and a “Hugo Cabret” musical in the works. Ley Line said it’s a content development, production, and financing company with projects spanning film, television, stage, and music. Headington financed and produced “The Young Victoria,” “Argo,” “Hugo,” and “World [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content