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  Louis Slotin Sonata at A Red Orchid Theatre

Louis Slotin Sonata

A Red Orchid Theatre
1531 N. Wells Street Chicago

Will our innate curiosity and confidence kill us or lead us to greater awakenings? At 3:20 PM on Tuesday, May 21, 1946 Louis Slotin's hand slipped—a small, practically insignificant blunder, except that Slotin was the chief -bomb builder at Los Alamos, and at that fateful moment he held in his hands a plutonium bomb core named "Rufus". With a structure inspired by classical music's sonata allegro form, Louis Slotin Sonata traces the true story of a brilliant scientist's last nine days, as his body and mind gradually succumb to the chaos wrecked by radiation.

Thru - Oct 24, 2010

Price: $15-$30

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 312-943-8722

Nearby Restaurants

  Louis Slotin Sonata Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Somewhat Recommended

"...Kessler stages the work with vibrancy and verve, but she's rather less successful here at letting the show breathe and ensuring our empathy with the title character. The many nightmare sequences feel inseparable from the real events, and you end up feeling rather wearied by the proceedings, which start feeling repetitive instead of following along with Slotin's nightmare (a nightmare that replicates the collective experience of those who suffered the explosion of the atomic bomb) in real time. Plays about science are tough to convert to a general audience, and while Mullin and Kessler mostly manage not to drown in the beryllium, Mullin has Slotin describe himself to his colleagues as the “chief bomb put-er together,” which does not sound like typical Los Alamos language."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Somewhat Recommended

"...Guy Massey is particularly good as the soft-spoken group leader who was an eyewitness to the Trinity bomb test, and became a nuclear nonproliferation advocate in the wake of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. William Norris captures the stiff resolve of Gen. Leslie Groves, military head of the Manhattan Project, and also suggests the torment and inner conflicts of faith in Slotin's father. Duncan Riddell is just right as Slotin's former lab assistant, and Walter Briggs, Christopher Walsh, Doug Vickers and Anita Deely (as Slotin's devoted nurse) all have strong moments. But there is more potential in this "Sonata" than satisfying proof."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...Playwright Paul Mullin makes this event the occasion for a phantasmagoric meditation on matters like 20th-century mass exterminations and the question of whether or not God plays dice with the universe. A lot of it is provocative and, in Karen Kessler's deliberately cartoonish production, surprisingly fun to watch. But so many of the conclusions Mullins draws are either grossly oversimplified (Einstein and Josef Mengele as fellow angels of death) or contrived (Slotin as a victim of chance) that the exercise comes off as overwrought, hollow, even childish."
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Tony Adler

Examiner - Recommended

"...Director Karen Kessler guides her ensemble through the elements of a sonata - exposition, development recapitulation – with a sure, smart hand. The first scene is straight-forward: Slotin and his colleagues are in the lab, a brotherhood of scientists whose casual, irreverent banter is jarring and even a bit horrifying given the work they’ve done. These are the scientists who “tickled the tail of the sleeping dragon,” sending millions to their deaths with the awesome and terrible power of the atomic bomb. Their irreverent, breezy demeanor is both shocking (a one point, they joke about how no one knew for certain whether the atmosphere would catch fire and incinerate the earth during the first tests out in the New Mexico desert) and a reminder of the humanity of the men who created the ultimate killing machine."
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Catey Sullivan

Copley News Service - Recommended

"...        Some of this stuff works theatrically, but too much of it distracts the viewer, diverting the play’s focus on the life and death of Slotin. One of the strongest scenes takes place near the play’s end and after Slotin’s death. Slotin’s orthodox Jewish father confronts two doctors from the lab who want to perform an autopsy on Slotin, with Louis’s pre-death blessing, for research purposes. But violating a dead body is against Jewish law and the father fiercely objects. It’s a powerful exchange but it has nothing to do with any previous action."

Dan Zeff

Centerstage - Recommended

"..Perhaps an intended consequence of the sonata form, Mullin's use of language and rhythm, although ultimately engaging, takes some time to find its groove. Once Slotin's morphine-driven dreams of Nazi "doctor" Josef Mengele begin to pop up amidst the dry medical and scientific monologues, the play becomes easier to engage with. However, the juxtaposition of the two never quite jells."

Sarah Terez Rosenblum

Time Out Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...As Slotin, Steve Schine is an able guide, conveying the scientist’s rational intelligence at odds with his sudden fear and doubt; Anita Deely provides extraordinary empathy as the nurse he befriends. Director Kessler handles Mullin’s tone quite well, balancing wacky gallows humor (a musical number that conflates Sodom with Nagasaki) with serious science. The play temporarily derails after Slotin’s second-act death, when unwelcome naturalism intrudes. But the final scene smartly echoes the first, as Slotin realizes in the afterlife that life itself is a laboratory, and all of us are just experimenting."
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Kris Vire

ChicagoCritic - Recommended

"...Louis Slotin Sonata is an think piece with bouts of humor; it contains history lessons as well as a personal portrait of a dying man. It is sad, funny and compelling with enough theatricality to engage us. Some judicious cuts – especially in the hallucination scenes – would serve the play well. For a quite different theatre experience, try A Red Orchid’s worthy Louis Slotin Sonata."
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Tom Williams

Chicago Stage Standard - Recommended

"...Karen Kessler’s galvanic staging works relentlessly to keep up with Mullin’s megamix of grim medical bulletins, unmotivated apostrophes to the audience, and even a silly dance sequence in which Slotin deliriously imagines himself transformed into Nazi “researcher” Josef Mengele, the monster of Auschwitz.  Realistic scenes in which Slotin’s associates, doctor and nurse break the bad news about the fatal dosage to Slotin and his devoted dad uneasily alternate with Slotin’s imagined testimony about the arrogance and stupidity of his totally avoidable death.  Steve Schine plays the doomed man, well,  playfully, sometimes as a stand-up comic joking about his own death wish come true, more affectingly as a “dead man walking,” so much collateral damage as the victim of his own brand of “friendly fire.”"

Lawrence Bommer

Around The Town Chicago - Recommended

"...As I said earlier, this is not a play for the masses. It is a “think piece” and for those who love science and history , I would think a must see! Because of this, I have given the play two ratings- one for the production itself ( four stars) and the other for the general audience who may not want to get into a ” think piece” ( three stars). A Red Orchid Theatre is a small, intimate venue in the heart of Old Town and due to the size of the stage area, they work , for the most part with very little set. What they have, created by John C. Stark is workable and Melissa Torchia’s costumes are fitting as well. Joseph Fosco’s sound and Julia Mack’s lighting all add to the picture that Kessler and Mullin are painting for us and Becky Marshall has found some wonderful props that are right for the time period. I would sya the only things with this Sonata that might be changed would be to trim it down by about 20 minutes and make sure that Louis’ dad, if he is as religious as his lines state, keeps his head covered. These are two minor flaws to an otherwise brilliantly done production, but again, one not for everyone."
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Alan Bresloff

Chicago Theater Beat - Recommended

"...Louis Slotin wanted to fade into obscurity instead of being remembered for ‘dropping the big one’ or more accurately ‘poking the small one’. Playwright Paul Mullin has preserved Dr. Slotin in a playful but educational sonata. The show is an entertaining lesson in science, history and religion. The heavy-duty science instruction made me realize I would have done better in physics if my teacher had been one of the Louis Slotin Sonata ensemble."

Katy Walsh

  Related Articles

Red Orchid stages a scientist's fatal mistake in 'Louis Slotin Sonata'
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