Stage Wright’s production of "The Physicists" by Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, directed by Patrick Ham runs through April 23, 2012 at Wilbur Wright College. The script itself is strange, but the message in the end is timeless. The first moments of the play start with a death of the second nurse in a few months and Inspector Voss questioning the famed psychiatrist Doktor Van Zhand. Van Zhand runs a sanatorium, an idyllic home for the mentally ill. The story focuses around three characters, Herbert Georg Beutler (Richard Rosary), who believes that he is Sir Isaac Newton. The second patient is Ernst Heinrich Ernesti (Joshua Bomba), who believes he is Albert Einstein. The third patient is Johann Wilhelm Mobius (Robert Puig Cuevas), and he believes the biblical King Solomon visits him. They reside in a sanatorium, during the 1961 nuclear scare and the production is plentiful with sci-fi nods and injected with moments of hilarity.
Mobius, who is brilliant physicist faked his insanity so that he might be committed to a sanatorium which would protect him and his knowledge. Although he fails to avoid attention, he upholds his insanity without question. The set consists of one wall that has three doors (the bedroom of each of the three patients), a functioning sink and furniture befitting of the time period with floor tiling which adds a pop of color, to the otherwise black and gray stage set. Kudos to Ham (who directed and did scenic/lighting design), Michael Van Howe (Scenic Artist) for giving the set life, and Theresa Ham (Costume Design) for dressing each character in period clothing. Inspector Richard Voss (Larry Trice) and Doktor Mattilda Van Zahnd (Stephanie Ricoy) are too blunt in their dialogue together and Ricoy’s accent confuses the audience. Whereas, the ensemble was subtle while acting, with memorable performances by Sara McCracken as Nurse Monica Stetler, her legs flailing and her desperate cries, in the final moments on her life. This moment marks the turning point in the play, and the motives of the so-called-physicists unravel as they sit around a table and enjoy dinner.
Rosario’s slightly overdramatic performance adds comic relief to the play during the dinner scene. This allows for the physicists to be differentiated and not all the same beige color as the script is. Cuevas comes across as depressed, more than insane and Bomba is the epitome of clinically insane. Elizabeth Paredes’ (Hair and Makeup) concept was light and not in excess, except for McCracken’s makeup after her death and Ricoy. She was given partial face prosthetics, which made her look scary. Perhaps it was my proximity to the stage, but McCracken’s makeup could have either been featured in a better way or darkened to be less obvious that is it makeup.
My only major complaint about this production is the projection abilities of a few actors. Caroline Myers (Doctor) seemed nervous as an actress and rushed her lines and Justin Lawler as (Herr Rose), providing much laughter, that was surely drowned out by his lack of volume. Although at points the play seems transparent and almost cliché, it is soon discovered that Einstein and Newton are frauds, and it creates a landslide of events that leads to an unpredicted twist in the ending, with the final moments being three monologues by Rosario, Bomba and Cuevas.