Wednesday, January 24, 2007

QED (Actors' Summit)

Outstanding ‘QED’ at Actors' Summit

I’m about to tell you that a lecture about physics makes for fascinating theatre.

You might think, “This reviewer has gone off the deep end.” Whether the latter statement is true or not isn’t the issue. The fact remains that physics, cancer treatment and musical theatre blended with marvelous acting and focused directing, does make for an enticing evening of theatre. Where? It’s on stage Actors’ Summit which is presenting Peter Farnell’s play ‘QED’ about Richard Feynman, the renowned physicist, professor and Nobel Prize winner.

QED stands for Quantum Electrodynamics, which was Feynman's field. QED is also the abbreviation for 'quod erat demonstrandum,' which basically means 'that proves it.' And what Farnell proves is not only that Feynman was a genius, who was part of the team that developed the atomic bomb, but a person of enormous warmth, creativity and passion. He was a real person who was as at home at the blackboard figuring out abstract formulas as playing the King of Bali Hai in a college production of ‘SOUTH PACIFIC.’

Alan Alda portrayed Feynman in both the Los Angeles and Broadway productions of ‘QED.’ A review stated of his Big Apple performance, “Alda's everyman demeanor is perfectly suited to this play; he is capable of winning over the audience immediately and guiding them, with a gentle hand, through what might otherwise be impossibly difficult subject matter. It is, however, always Feynman onstage. Alda has no problem vanishing into the character of Feynman here, with his manic mannerisms and strong adaptation to the ‘stream of consciousness’ style of Parnell's script.”

The reviewer could have penned those words about Neil Thackaberry’s performance. His is a tour de force enactment.

Under Wayne Turney’s capable directing, Thackaberry spends his almost one-and-a half hours on stage in what is close to a solo piece, talking to the audience, yakking on the phone and briefly interacting with a female student (Miriam, capably portrayed by Jocelyn Roueiheb), who may be as interested in him as an intellect as a potential sex mate.

Throughout, we remain fascinated. We are compelled to share in his intimate decisions about whether or not to have yet another operation to curb his raging cancer, his dealings with a group of visiting Russian dignitaries, and his performance in the musical.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Actors’ Summit seems to deal exceptionally well with solo shows. Their ‘CLARENCE DARROW: A ONE MAN SHOW,’ which starred Thackaberry and ‘GIVE ‘EM HELL HARRY,’ which starred Turney, the play’s director, were both outstanding. Add ‘QED’ to that list! This is a must see performance.