Theater Feature: OPPENHEIMER (Rogue Machine Theatre at its new home, Electric Lodge in Venice)

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by Frank Arthur on October 3, 2018

in Theater-Los Angeles


J. Robert Oppenheimer was a brilliant, enigmatic and complex man. Ambitious and charismatic, Oppenheimer found himself uniquely placed to spearhead the largest scientific undertaking in all of human history, the Manhattan Project and the creation of the Atomic bomb — he’s the man in charge of the team whose bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Any treatment of his life, whether biographical or fictional, must bear the substantial weight of these qualities and capture the triumph and tragedy of his immensely consequential life. And Tom Morton-Smith’s Oppenheimer does this by recreating conversations and events from the physicist’s life and career. The conversations take place at Los Alamos, at the Oppenheimer home, at his office in Berkeley and at Spanish Civil War Relief Fund parties, treading on many topics including socialist politics, bomb theory and fission and army compartmentalization.

Now, Rogue Machine Theatre — consistently one of L.A.’s best companies — is bringing this massive play to their new home, the Electric Lodge in Venice, beginning this weekend and playing until December. Many of “Oppie’s” colleagues, students and family members are in the play, including Edward Teller, Hans Bethe, his students Robert Serber and Rossi Lomanitz, General Leslie Groves, his wife Kitty, brother Frank and old girlfriend Jean Tatlock. Thus director John Perrin Flynn has assembled a monumental ensemble for this exciting American Premiere: James Leibman, Ryan Brophy, Jason Chiumento, Kenny Selvey, Mark Jacobson, Miranda Wynne, Kirsten Kollander, Brewster Parsons, Zach Grant, Scott Victor Nelson, Jen Pollono, Rachel Avery, Michael Redfield, Dan Via, Ron Bottitta, Brendon Farrel, Landon Tavernier, Brady Richards, Daniel Shawn Miller, Rick Garrison, Marwa Bernstein, and Sophie Pollono.

“Anyone who knows anything about the Manhattan Project or Oppenheimer has an opinion on it, and him. I wanted to show you the other side,” says playwright Morton-Smith. “I wanted to take a character who seemed so aloof in the history books and show him as a human being. His journey from idealism to cynicism…eventually kind of betraying his younger self.”

photos by John Perrin Flynn

Rogue Machine Theatre
Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave. in Venice
Sat and Mon at 8; Sun at 3
ends on December 30, 2018
dark on 10/8, 10/28, 11/12, 11/17, 11/26, 12/1, 12/2, 12/8, 12/9, 12/10, 12/24
add’l performances on 10/26, 10/28 & 11/2 at 8
for tickets, call 855-585-5185 or visit Rogue Machine

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