The pipe-smoking, Bhagavad Gita-quoting, McCarthy-defying figure of J. Robert Oppenheimer occupies a place in the popular mythography of physics dwarfed only by the likes of Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Carson Kreitzer’s play, currently at the Next Theatre, sets out to disturb our view of the man behind the Manhattan Project. Foregrounding more obscure aspects of Oppenheimer’s biography, like his complicated romantic attachments and anxiety over his Judaism and tailor father, “Love Song” traces out the mosaic of this exemplary twentieth-century life, but ends up more studied than inhabited. David Cromer’s Oppenheimer remains mannered and remote, a cipher to his wife, himself, and us. And the vaudeville antics of Oppenheimer’s supporting scientists feel forced, a familiar solution to the problem of dramatizing the play’s intellectual heavy lifting. The revelation in this production is Wendy Robie’s astonishing performance as Lilith (that’s right, Lilith as in Adam’s legendary first bride). Hissing and spitting her lyrical visions of apocalypse, Lilith haunts the play’s action from the rafters. Her charged debates with Oppenheimer bring to a fiery life a play that otherwise remains, like its central character, an intricate and mandarin puzzle. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.