I knew I was going to like the play, "Copenhagen," when one of the first lines said that some questions are unanswerable.
But when a play has so much dialogue, and so little action, seemingly it doesn't make much difference whether the actors are sitting on stools with binders in their hands, reading, or sitting around on a stage reciting memorized lines.
"Copenhagen" is about a 1941 meeting in (take a guess) Copenhagen between two noted physicists: Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg.
Pleasingly, because I'm into this stuff, there's much mention of quantum physics in the play. In the 1920's Bohr and Heisenberg were central players in the development of quantum mechanics, one of the greatest scientific developments of our time.
Or any time.
The crux of "Copenhagen" is whether Heisenberg, a German, was working to develop an atomic bomb for Hitler.
Reflecting the uncertainty principle of quantum physics that goes by his name, we're never sure what Heisenberg's motivations are or what he really was up to before and after his meeting with Bohr – a long time friend and colleague.
After the reading the actors hung around to chat with the small audience (there was minimal publicity of the reading, unfortunately).
My comment was that I appreciated SRT's boldness in presenting a play in Salem that offered up questions rather than answers.
Too many people in this too-conservative town like entertainment that follows a typical arc of (1) problem introduction, (2) deepening of the dilemma, and (3) pleasing resolution. Such as, a dissimilar man and woman meet, their differences cause difficulties, they work it out and get married!
Boring. Yet emotionally satisfying.
With "Copenhagen," I told the actors, I started off not knowing what was going on and I ended up not knowing what was going on. Nice. Just like life.
The ending of the play leaves the impression that Heisenberg did his best to stall Hitler's development of an atomic bomb, via both conscious and unconscious motivations. Hence, he's a good guy.
However, one of the actors said that recently released correspondence from the Niels Bohr Archive leaves a different impression. Indeed, a 2002 article from New Scientist says that the uncertainty about Heisenberg's bomb making has ended.
Newly released documents show unequivocally that the renowned German physicist Werner Heisenberg was building an atomic bomb for the Nazis during World War II. The revelations, in letters and notes made public on Wednesday by the Niels Bohr Archive in Denmark lays to rest a controversy that spanned 60 years.
The unsent letters, written to Heisenberg by Bohr after the war, reveal that during a visit to Copenhagen in 1941, Heisenberg confessed to his former mentor that he was working on a bomb. Furthermore, Heisenberg told Bohr he was confident of success.
However, Wikipedia's take on "Copenhagen" is sympathetic to Heisenberg, interpreting the correspondence in a more favorable light. Some uncertainty continues to reign.
Proving (in my own mind, at least, where it counts) that synchronicity also is a fundamental principle of the universe, this morning I ran across a terrific Country Public Broadcasting System music video that mentions both Heisenberg and Bohr – along with lots of beer, pickup trucks, and physics.
Enjoy. But be warned, it's scientifical.