Famed director and Temple alumnus Duglald MacArthur has added another credit to his rsum. Under his direction, Michael Frayn’s Tony award-winning play “Copenhagen” continues its successful run at the Lantern Theater.
Despite acclaim by critics from The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Courier-Post, MacArthur remains humble.
“It’s a commitment greater than saying, ‘Am I going to get into a company that sells stocks?’ You have to love it,” MacArthur said of his dedication.
The Harvard business school graduate was groomed to take over his family reins, but declined to do so. That decision has paved the way for many accomplishments, including directing “Lovers and Executioners,” “The Bacchae” and “The Screwtape Letters.” This standard of excellence has carried over to his latest production.
Penned by Frayn in 1998, the tone of “Copenhagen” was inspired by physicist Werner Heisenberg’s visit to his mentor, Niels Bohr, and Bohr’s wife, Margrethe, in September 1941. These three shared an interwoven tale of truth versus perception. Because of its significance in relation to World War II, the details of the meeting have been debated for years. Detractors believe that Heisenberg sought to take advantage of Bohr, his father figure, in an attempt to retrieve the mechanics to an atomic bomb. Once obtained, the knowledge would be passed to Adolf Hitler. On the other hand, supporters viewed the visit as more an overture of friendship.
Gathered in an intimate space theater, the Lantern Theater treats its 150 occupants to an accommodating show. Actors Charles McMahon, Sally Mercer and Paul L. Nolan bring the speculation to life. The talented trio depicts the famous characters accurately and believably, making the play not only entertaining but credible.
Mercer, who received the Barrymore Award for her portrayal in “The Glass Menagerie,” tackles the part of Margarethe Bohr. More than simply a dutiful wife, she also takes over the narrative voice to document the unspoken action. Margrethe, an objective bystander, was fiercely loyal to both her husband and the truth.
McMahon, co-founder of the Lantern Theater, doubles as an actor to represent Werner Heisenberg. His subtlety saves what could have been a thankless role as villain. Broad strokes of black and white are emphasized to highlight the ambiguous nature of his character. The actor allowed the audience to judge his role as either the friend or the enemy.
Paul L. Nolan’s Bohr is the heart that drives the story. Though betrayed by Heisenberg’s treachery, the character’s credibility as the hero is questioned through his actions. Regret is apparent as he takes responsibility for the many casualties of his creation.
Despite the time-sensitive subject matter, the play remains timeless. The theme is especially relevant in today’s ever-changing global landscape. As war is being fought over weapons of mass destruction, the science remains at the root of the problem. Scientists still hold the key to discoveries with potential for more harm than good.
Although critics question the accuracy of events, “Copenhagen” captures the essence of the debate. The audience must decide where the blurry line of right and wrong lies.
“I think it’s well done. I think it’s very interesting,” Jim Frantz, an audience member, commented.
The Lantern Theater, located at 10th and Ludlow streets, will be featuring “Copenhagen” through Feb. 29.
Stephanie Guerilus can be reached at Luv2BSteph@aol.com