It is great when theatre takes important stories out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Overshadowed by his contemporaries Einstein and Oppenheimer, physicist Leo Szilard’s (1898-1964) story is an engrossing one. A Hungarian – American physicist and inventor, Szilard conceived the nuclear chain reaction in 1936, patented the idea of a nuclear reactor and in late 1939 wrote the letter for Albert Einstein’s signature that resulted in the Manhatten Project that built the Atomic bomb.
There’s plenty in the Szilard story for the audience to immerse themselves in. We get a well rounded portrait of this complex and very humane physics boffin. Whilst other colleagues were self- seeking, ambitious men, doing everything in their power to promote their careers, Szilard was introspective and looked at the longer term ramification of his work.
The play demonstrates that he was an activist and lobbied the American Government against using the bomb- originally designed to combat the Nazis- in its military campaign against Japan. As well, ATOMIC gives audiences insights into Szilard’s personal life and the special relationship that he had with his wife, Trude, which was compromised by his all consuming passion for physics.
Michael Falzon gives a strong, sympathetic performance as Szilard and showcases a deep baritone voice.
Bronwyn Mulcahy plays his devoted wife, Trude, who has fight for attention from a husband whose career is all engulfing.atom cluster backdrop
David Whitney, Simon Brook McLachlan, Blake Erickson, Lana NesnaChristy Sullivan perform well in the supporting roles, playing a wide range of characters.
ATOMIC displayed impressive production values. The highlight of Neil Patel’s set design was the clustered atom backdrop Plenty of use was made of cutting edge lighting (designer Niklas Pajanti) and sound effects (design by Michael Walters), and a six piece band- keyboard, guitar, bass, drums/percussion, violin and cello, led by Andy Peterson, kept the music pumping through on a raised platform level above the stage.
Recommended, Damien Gray’s production of ATOMIC, book and lyrics by Danny Ginges, Gregory Bonsignore and music and lyrics by Philip Foxman, is playing NIDA’s Playhouse Theatre for a strictly limited season which closes this Saturday, November 30.
For those who want to delve more into the Leo Szilard story a new book has been published, entitled ‘Genius in the Shadows’, written by William Lanouett. The book is available through www.skyhorsepublishing.com.