Friedrich Dürrenmatt

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Plays by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

audio The Physicists

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

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 murderous 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.

Includes a conversation with Richard Rhodes, America's preeminent historian of the nuclear age. He’s the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” and its companion book, “Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb.”

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.

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, Missy Yager

Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990) was a Swiss playwright, novelist and essayist whose work is permeated by an overriding sense of the absurd in human existence. Although he studied literature and philosophy at Berne and Zurich Universities, his original interest was in painting, and in particular the art of caricature, an interest which is refelcted in the satrirical style of his first play Es steght geschrieben (It is Written, 1947). His manipulation of historical facts, translating them into grotesque, black comedy in this play about the sixteenth-century Münster Anabaptists, evoked an uncomfortable response in his audiences. Two further plays again exploited historical fact to chilling, but comic effect: Der Blinde (The Blind Man, 1948) and Romulus der Grosse (Romulus the Great, 1949) – the latter bringing Dürrenmatt his first critical success. With Die Ehe des Herrn Mississippi (The Marriage of Mr Mississippi, 1952) and Der Besuch der alten Dame (The Visit, 1956), Dürrenmatt finally reached a wider audience. The latter was given a memorable production in London and on Broadway by the Lunts, while the former was taken to the United States as Fools are Passing Through in 1958. In 1962 Dürrenmatt’s international reputation was consolidated with his widely acclaimed play Die Physiker (The Physicists, 1962). This work, in which Dürrenmatt casts a pessimistic eye over the development of atomic science and highlights the moral bankruptcy of the postwar world, was given a highly successful production by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1963. In his later years, Dürrenmatt’s interest in challenging established theatrical techniques led him to adapt Strindberg’s The Dance of Death in 1969 as Play Strindberg, a work that has proved to be one of the most popular plays in repertoire. In 1970 he announced his decision to abandon writing plays himself, in preference to adapting the works of others, such as Woyzeck (1972). He published several critical essays discussing his theatrical theories, notable ‘Theaterprobleme’ (1955), in which he reinforces his belief that humanity’s fate is inherently tragic and can be dealt with only though comedy. Dürrenmatt’s grotesque, expressionist style, while at times difficult and convoluted, has led to his general appreciation as the twentieth century’s most important German-language playwright alongside Brecht. from Helen Rappaport, The Continuum Companion to Twentieth-Century Theatre, ed. Colin Chambers (London, 2002).