Copenhagen is a play by Michael Faryn based upon a meeting between the physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in 1941. Why the German Heisenberg travelled to Copenhagen and what he said to the half-Jewish Danish Bohr, is the central theme of this play, as the old friends subsequently find themselves on opposite ends of World War II in a race to create the atomic bomb.
An adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play was recently playing at Theater J, a theatre celebrated for exploring works that highlight the Jewish experience. Thus, it should not surprise you that I found myself the only Black person, young, single, very black woman, in a sea of almost elderly Jewish couples on a seemingly date-night, on the Sunday evening that I chose to go see the play.
The post-play discussion was led by a Rabbi, who seemed to be the Rabbi of many in the audience making me feel even more like an outsider. Many of the questions asked revolved around World War II but also about the current xenophobic, anti-refugee climate. That was at least interesting hearing them draw parallels. Also raised, was the point that several nations today have nuclear arms and could they have known it, Bohr and Heisenberg, that nuclear annihilation could become the threat it is today?
And a play about theoretical physics? I mean I had a year of physics in college, and did well enough, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy the topic. It was hard to understand what was going on and I didn’t find myself completely drawn in. But in the end I’m glad I went.