Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Good Production of Moving Bodies
Also see Richard's recent review of Misalliance
Arthur Giron's Moving Bodies opened at the Ensemble Studio Theater in New York on April 10, 2000 and it closed on April 29. The play got mixed reviews from the New York papers. The critics tried to compare this play with Copenhagen, then playing on Broadway. Mr. Giron flew out to Mill Valley and changed many of the scenes to make the lead characters more human. The comic fantasy is more fully developed in this production.
Moving Bodies is a reverie about Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman's exploration of science, sex and the mysteries of the universe. The play portrays the fascinating life of Feynman from his teenage years to his discovery of the cause of the Challenger space shuttle disaster.
The production contains many vignettes of Feynam's life, from his teen years trip to the Chicago World's Fair of '33 with his intellectual atheist father and eccentric Jewish mother to the time of his death after testifying at a Senate Committee on the disaster of the Challenger. We meet his feisty sister Joan, his Princeton roommate who later becomes a manufacturer of some of the Challenger parts, his wife who has lymphatic tuberculosis and the father of the atom bomb, Robert Oppenheimer. High school student Feynman discovers the interdependence of sex and science by watching Sally Rand do her famous fan dance at the fair. It was the first time the young man became hot and bothered by the female form. He says this is the perfect form of atoms in the universe and "that force of nature is known as woman." We see both sides of Mr. Feynman's character, both genius and clown.
The playwright attempted to cover a lot of ground in the two hour and 20 minute play with intermission. There was the anti-semitism of the period, the dilemma of women in the science field, the relationships with his parents, the discovery of one of the key formulations for the atom bomb, the banter with Oppenheimer, the death of his wife in New Mexico, the many affairs he had with women and finally the testimony by him at the Senate hearings after the Challenger explosion. Just too much to cover in such a short period of time.
Michael James, an actor from the East Coast now making his home here is superb as the iconoclastic Richard Feynman. It is an effervescent performance by this young man with a perfect New Jersey accent. Veteran Bay Area actor Joe Bellan plays the father almost as a vaudevillian comic. He is a ham but frankly I enjoyed his performance since it was a "fantasy." Jeri Lynn Cohen is the perfect Jewish mother, always nagging her son and her husband. Sarah Sankowich convincingly plays the dying wife and Robert Rossman is excellent as Oppenheimer.
Lee Sankowich, who has championed Giron's other plays, manages to direct a smooth running episodic production. The set is minimal on the small floor with a backdrop of physics quotes and some props that become chairs, beds and even seats in a car. It is an interesting production to watch.
Moving Bodies plays through October 21 and tickets are $20. Seating is not reserved. Call 415-388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org.