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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Review – Physicist falls short of genius

The production of “The Physicists” invokes a few light chuckles and proves entertaining, yet doesn’t instill a want or need for an encore performance.

The theater was small and intimate. Set design was well done in a chintzy way: wood painted to look like marble, lavish drapes over the single window and three black, vinyl-covered doors faced the audience from down stage.

The play, directed by City College acting instructor Katie Laris and written in 1962 by Friedrich Durrenmatt, is set in a mental institution, called here a sanatorium, and takes on the ideas of warfare in past and present times.

The story centers around three main characters that are seen as insane and believe that they are famous physicists.

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In the end they reveal that they are merely acting crazy in order to protect themselves and the population from there own genius.

Special praise goes to the acting of Marisa Freeman who comically and exquisitely plays the character of Fraulein Doktor Mathilde Von Zahnd, referred to simply as Fraulein Doktor.

Freeman brings the hospital’s exceedingly flirtatious and creepy psychiatrist front and center, stealing the show and making the audience take notice of how insanely close the doctor is to her patients.

Dressed in a crisp white linen suit she possesses a hump and a limp faintly bringing to mind the assistant of a mad scientist. With high-arched eyebrows and an awkward grace, she handles her cigarette in the same way she does the classic hot head police inspector played just right by Guy Bardascino.

Another notable performance goes to Luis Jose Stephens who played the wild-haired Ernst Heinrich Ernesti, also known as Einstein.

Providing a great accent and adding to that a shuffle of his slippers, Stephens brings life to Einstein as a persona with lots of original comic genius.

Michael Johnson plays the show’s main character, Johann Wilhelm Mobius, also known as Solomon. Although well played, Johnson appears to be trying too hard, not quite rounding out his character, and delivering exhausted lines. Playing a genius in physics does not translate to being an acting genius.

In the scene where he proceeded to fake that he is crazy, scaring his family away, he played his insanity overly dramatic and it worked well.

Johnson followed with the chilling scene where he must strangle his nurse, played by Lucia Gill. The pair displayed the murder with a quick struggle as if watching a murder first hand.

Aside from the fact that this was the first showing, the cast as a whole performed as if they were aware of the audience watching them.

Speaking at them rather than drawing them in to the story. The lighting seemed unreal and dissatisfying in the division between night and day.

Night came to quick and strong and day looked too bright for the inside of an asylum. Costumes were not astonishing or eye popping, yet the nurse’s outfits were all of a tailored quality.

Nurse Monica Stettler’s especially, played by Gill, whose outfit was just the right amount to make her the fantasy nurse in a plunging v-neck and fishnet stockings. Overall the play was amusing, but a little stale in some places.

So if you are looking for a way to spend two hours on the weekend then purchase a ticket and half-heartedly enjoy.

Of course time could be better spent washing the dishes or writing a better play.

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