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The Physicists Paperback – Bargain Price, January 21, 1994
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German
From the Inside Flap
Johann Mobius, the world's greatest physicist, is locked away in a madhouse along with two other scientists. Why? Because he is haunted by recurring visions of King Solomon, and the other two are convinced they are Einstein and Newton. But are these three actually mad? Or are they playing a murdererous game with the world at stake? This darkly comic satire probes the cost of sanity among men of science and whether it is the mad who are the truly sane.
An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Anne Gee Byrd, Matthew Patrick Davis, Bruce Davison, John de Lancie, Matt Gaydos, Harry Groener, Christopher Guilmet, Melinda Page Hamilton, Gregory Itzin, Roma Maffia and Missy Yager.
The Physicists is part of L.A. Theatre Works' Relativity Series featuring science themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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in the play, a manaical doctor virtually imprisons famous scientists in the hope of getting her hands on the "unified theory" which would explain all scientific and natural phenomena and would therefore make her rich beyond anyone's dreams.
but needless to say, her plans go awry ... (i shall not divulge any more of the storyline!)
what made me look for this play at this time? i remembered from my lines that einstein was born in ulm, and my wife and i were taking a river cruise down the danube ... we didn't go to ulm, though; the nearest we got to it was vilshofen.
i was glad to find the book!
It's a very nice translation, close enough to the original to be helpful as a teaching tool, but readable enough to provide an entertaining play, in its own right.
The play is short and interesting. It is something I feel should be read to help spark a group discussion about science, business, and social responsibility. It's definitely worth a read.
If I had to grade it I'd give it a B+.
This two act play is about three institutionalized “physicists” who have gone mad. It is unclear as to who is crippled with mental disorder and who is not. We are unclear as to whether the three main characters were, in a previous life actually physicists. Ernesti imagines himself to be Einstein, Beutler as Newton and Möblius is possessed by King Solomon. Apparently they have plotted some sort of scientific overthrow as they are not really insane but rather spies on a mission. Reality is blurred noticeably throughout.
They kill nurses in order to maintain a façade and it is unclear how this would better their efforts as anything else but mad men but it is integral to the drama. The play is sort of a typical postmodern rendering about how we cannot define a difference between insanity and genius because we are entrapped by cultural narratives.
That silliness aside there are a few points worth addressing. The physicists determine that it is science that dictates political ends. We witness a world where that is rarely the case. More often it is politics that directs science. We recently experienced a preponderance of that during the Bush II years.
In the playwright’s coda he lists 21 points to physicists and it includes one that suggests that there is a democracy to science. There is none of that in fact. Science does not work by majority rule.