Review: Boston and Beyond

By Susan Mulford, Boston and Beyond

Great scientific discoveries, art and another unsung heroine of the 20th century are amply presented in this extraordinarily engaging production by prolific playwright, Jennifer Blackmer.  Directed by Betsy S. Goldman, the story surrounds physicist Dr. Lise Meitner, beautifully performed by IRNE and Norton Nominee, Christine Power, who also wowed audiences with her performance in The Women Who Mapped the Stars at the Nora Theater. Working with Chemist Otto Hahn, (Thomas Grenon) along with her nephew, physicist Robert Frisch (Matt Arnold), Meitner named their discovery nuclear fission. This discovery prompted Albert Einstein to write President Franklin D. Roosevelt a warning letter surrounding the potential dangers involved…which in turn led to the Manhattan Project.

Otto Hahn and Lise MeitnerFighting prejudice against women, Meitner was overlooked for any credit for the discovery when Hahn, downplaying Meitner’s role in the research, received the Nobel Prize for the work. Years later, many consider Lise Meitner the “most significant woman scientist of the 20th Century.”  The U.S. press, in 1946, gave her celebrity treatment, as someone who had “left Germany with the bomb in (her) purse.”  And too, a German research team named the radioactive element “meitnerium” (Mt) after Meitner in the 1990s, making her the only non-mythological woman to have an element that bears her name.  Despite being baptized as a Lutheran, her Jewish heritage forced her to flee Nazi infested Germany, run to Sweden and end up in obscurity. The play lays out this story with Meitner visiting Otto Hahn’s wife, the painter Edith Hahn, who is residing in a mental hospital. Edith is brilliantly played by award-winning Barbara Douglass. The two women reminisce, open up historical old wounds, and with fascinatingly fluid surrealism dissect the teeming worlds of possibility. This perfectly engaging production is by Flat Earth Theatre and is staged at the The Mosesian Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St. in Watertown. Tickets for a show that is rife amazing talent and a uniquely engaging tale, may be obtained at www.flatearththeatre.com