[NEohioPAL] Berko review: PHOTOGRAPH 51 @ Actors' Summit

Roy Berko royberko at gmail.com
Mon Jan 20 13:50:15 PST 2014


*Fine script and acting bring PHOTOGRAPH 51 into focus at Actors’ Summit*
Roy Berko
Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle

PHOTOGRAPH 51 is a bio-drama based on the life of Rosalind Franklin, a
British biophysicist and crystallographer.  Many think she should have been
a Noble prize-recipient, but her standoffish personality, perfectionism,
and some seemingly unethical actions by others, as well as the possibility
of gender discrimination against her, got in the way.

Franklin, who was born into an affluent and influential British Jewish
family,   was responsible for making critical contributions to the
understanding of the double helix, thus defining the molecular structures
of DNA, RNA and viruses.   Her brilliant career was brought to a close when
she died at age 37 of ovarian cancer.

Anna Ziegler’s script was not developed in a traditional manner.  The play,
which was presented at the 2011 World Science Festival in New York, was
originally developed by The Ensemble Studio Theatre under the sponsorship
of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science and Technology Project.  Yes, a
play developed with the aid of an organization which is noted for
sponsoring scientific achievement, not the arts.

Franklin’s tale is complex and shows a smart woman, operating in a field
dominated by men.  It highlights the 1953 era when Franklin and several
male scientists are on the verge of discovering what they called, “the
secret of life—the DNA double helix.”

We observe Franklin both trying and avoiding forming any type of
relationship, professional or personal.  We watch her struggle with her
being concise, impatient, and directly confrontational, which irritates and
unnerves her male co-workers.

We observe her being ahead of the pack in discovery, but not writing the
needed journal articles or the building of models, which eventually leads
to her ideas being usurped and published by Francis Crick, James Watson and
Maurice Wilkins.  This resulted in the trio winning the 1962 Nobel Prize in
physiology and medicine.

Supposedly, Franklin was omitted from Nobel recognition because she had
died, and the deceased are not  allowed to receive the award.  In reality,
she had been eliminated from consideration when the trio “stole” her work,
tweaked the findings, and published it without noting her contributions.

The Actors’ Summit production is exceptionally well done.  The
one-hundred-ten minute play, under the focused direction of Neil
Thackaberry, moves swiftly. The script is strong and, in spite the fact
that this is a “talk” rather than an action play, the production grabs and
holds attention.  The acting is generally of a high level.

Sally Groth inhabits the role of Rosalind.  We are caught up in her inner
anguish, her obsessive personality, her struggle to move beyond her lack of
social graces.  This is a woman on a mission, but makes some tactical
decisions that deny her deserved fame.

Keith Stevens creates in Maurice Wilkins, Rosalind’s supposed research
partner, a clear person who has a love/hate relationship with her.  Kenneth
Leep is outstanding as Don Casper, the American who admires Rosalind’s work
and has romantic feelings toward her, which she rejects.  Zach Griffin is
wonderful as Ray Gosling, Rosalind’s put-upon assistant, who provides some
comic relief.

*Capsule judgement: PHOTOGRAPH 51 is a well written script which gets a
very strong production.  The play is a must see for anyone who wants to be
exposed to what, for most, will be a venture into the complex world of
science that is presented in a meaningful way, by a cast that makes the
lesson fascinating.*
For tickets to PHOTOGRAPH 51, which runs through February 2, call
330-374-7568 or go to www.actorssummit.org

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