Briefly noted: A new play about Oppie

The idea of a play dealing with J. Robert Oppenheimer, about which I speculated briefly in this recent post, turns out to have occurred to others, as I learned yesterday evening from Mel Cooper’s report on the Don’t Miss It blog (to which I formerly contributed). Other reviews of the Royal Shakespeare Company production must be out there or on the way; I haven’t had time to check. In the light of this play and Sir Tom Stoppard’s new work (which considers the problem of consciousness), a broad question comes to mind: Why do historical, biographical, political, and scientific dramas seem beyond the reach of most American playwrights?

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What a Blast!: Optimizing Oppenheimer
(Stratford: It’s not just about Shakespeare…)

The newly commissioned play, Oppenheimer, by Tom Morton-Smith is a total triumph for the Royal Shakespeare Company in every way. It introduces an exceptionally talented new playwright, who has risen to the demands of his commission and the requirement to use a large ensemble company brilliantly; a strong new director and his team; and much acting talent that one will want to follow. Every element meshes beautifully to make a truly gripping, dramatic, thought-provoking and thrilling event.

morton-smithTo begin with, Morton-Smith has given the production the strongest possible foundation in a script that’s compellingly intelligent, beautifully constructed, dramatically articulate and deeply theatrical. He’s made vivid and real the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer and the whole team of extraordinary geniuses (and their wives, lovers and military keepers) involved in the Manhattan Project that created the atomic bomb…

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2 thoughts on “Briefly noted: A new play about Oppie

  1. All well and good, but there was also an excellent six-part miniseries called “Oppenheimer” broadcast by the BBC in 1980 with Sam Waterston excellent as Oppenheimer and David Suchet as Edward Teller. The full series is available for viewing on YouTube, with Part 1 here:


    • I saw something on PBS in the 80s about Oppenheimer, which was probably just the program you refer to. It gave me the idea that his life had a sufficiently dramatic form that it could probably work on the stage. I think I even saw Oppenheimer’s story as fitting the outlines of Romantic drama (a term that I nowadays have to look up). Thanks for the reminder.


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