Jan 26-Feb 11, 2018
'In Ziegler's taut yet graceful script Franklin's passion for science shines through, as does the agility of her inquiring mind ... Photograph 51 neatly coils a scientific detective story around a rumination on how sexism, personality and morality can impact collaboration and creativity...It honors Franklin by painting her as a complete person, with flaws and sterling attributes, and by evoking the thrills and risks of scientific pursuit itself.' - The Seattle Times.
|Properties & Projection Design|
|Sound Design & Producer|
|Light And Sound Board Operator|
|Tee Shirt And Poster Design|
|House Manager Coordinator|
'Photograph 51' captures a moment in DNA history - and the audience
By Cheryl Thornburg
- Cheryl Thornburg, Facebook
For my New Mexico and El Paso friends, I saw a great play in Las Cruces last weekend -- here's a review. Consider seeing it if you're in the vicinity of Las Cruces between now and Feb. 11. For my theater friends elsewhere -- consider adding "Photograph 51" to your schedule.
It is a joy to be back in New Mexico and seeing plays at the Black Box Theatre again. It's been about 14 years since I last reviewed a play here, and the current production, "Photograph 51," more than lived up to my expectations - which were high.
The play is based on the actual scientists who discovered the structure of DNA. Playing real people presents a challenge for actors, and Director Ceil Herman has selected a cast that more than meets that challenge.
"Photograph 51" tells the story of Dr. Rosalind Franklin, a passionate and dedicated scientist, whose work in X-ray crystallography was an integral part of uncovering the secrets of DNA, but who was not recognized for it. Women scientists of the time (1950s) dealt with sexism, various prejudices and lack of respect, which may sound familiar in today's society. There is a message there, but playwright Anna Ziegler doesn't bludgeon the audience with it. Instead she has created complex characters with human flaws and frailties that reflect the atmosphere of the time.
Rosalind Franklin is not put up on a pedestal, but is depicted as a brilliant, but socially inept woman whose passion for her work supersedes all else. Nora Thomas Medina brings her to life - her focus and dedication as well as her brusque attitude and impatience with others. Her performance is compelling and memorable. After the show, when I read her bio in the program, I realized I had seen her is a very different role as Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors" in October. I had no idea that this was the same actress - one of the highest compliments I can pay any actor.
She is not alone, however, Scott Bracato gives a finely nuanced performance as Dr. Maurice Wilkins, her chauvinist colleague who verbally spars with her on many occasions. Bracato's Wilkins is multi-layered and we see a different side of him by the end of the play. The chemistry - or anti-chemistry - between these two creates a palpable tension.
Competition was high as various groups tried to solve the mystery of DNA, and lead to some unscrupulous methods. The "villains" in this case were James Watson and Francis Crick, who eventually won the Nobel Prize for the discovery. Played by Joseluis Solorzano and David Arias respectively, the two manipulate Wilkins to reveal some of Franklin's work, which gives them the edge in the DNA race. In addition to the intrigue though, these two work well together and add some comic relief, particularly in "good ole boy" scenes.
Rounding out the cast are Matthew Frietze as Ray Gosling, the intern who actually first recognized the importance of Photograph 51 and Joshua Taulbee as Don Casper, a new PhD who joins the team and works for Franklin.
Frietze, a Las Cruces High School senior, is a newcomer to the Black Box stage. He brings a vulnerability to Gosling, the enthusiastic young scientist, who produces the photographs.
Taulbee, a veteran of other Black Box productions, is rock solid as Casper, who has romantic feelings for his boss, Franklin.
In addition to the first-rate cast, many others contribute to the success of any production. In this case they are Tressa Smith (scenic design), James Padilla (light design), Peter Herman (projection and properties design), Ceil Herman (director and sound design) and Cassi Galban (stage manager).
There's still time to catch this real-life, character-driven drama with its embedded history and science lessons. It runs through Feb. 11 at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main St. in Las Cruces.
Remaining performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 2-3 and 9-10; 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 4 and 11; and 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8.
Tickets are $15 regular admission, $12 for students and seniors and $10 for the Thursday performance.
For reservations, call 575-523-1223 or visit no-strings.org.
No seating plan has been posted.