Wednesday, March 1, 2017

reviews - PHOTOGRAPH 51 - Southwest Shakespeare Company

Kim Stephenson and Clay Sanderson
photo by Tom McCoy

highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through March 11th.

"Just like the hit film Hidden Figures let the world discover the previously unknown female mathematicians behind some of the earliest successes of NASA, Anna Ziegler's terrific play Photograph 51 lets us see that the discovery of the structure of DNA was based on the findings of a female scientist named Rosalind Franklin, even though three men, including Franklin's coworker Maurice Wilkins, would share the Nobel Prize for Medicine for their efforts. Southwest Shakespeare Company presents the Arizona premiere of Ziegler's play in a simple yet sumptuous production featuring an engrossing performance by Kim Stephenson as Rosalind....the plot follows Franklin as she begins work as a researcher in Wilkins' lab, photographing images of cells in order to unlock what would come to be known as "the secret of life."...At the same time, James Watson and Francis Crick, an American and an Englishman, were working together on DNA analysis in Cambridge, and their professional rivalry with Wilkins and Franklin took a turn in their favor when they viewed an X-ray diffraction image that Rosalind took, her 51st photograph, that allowed them to determine the double helix structure of DNA.... a taut thriller full of intrigue, with passionate characters who are just as engrossing as individuals as they are in their determination to unlock the mysteries of DNA....
As Rosalind, Kim Stephenson is stunning, delivering a vivid performance of this strong-willed woman. Stephenson's beautifully layered portrayal there is also a softness we see when Rosalind meets the one man she believes shares her passion. As that younger American Don Caspar, James Conway delivers an effervescent performance. ...Ziegler's well-crafted script and Clay Sanderson's beautifully nuanced performance paint Maurice Wilkins as a man and not a villain. ...Sanderson does very good work here in showing Wilkins' frustrations, fears, and conflicted views, yet also his hope.
The partnership of Connor Wanless and Patrick Walsh, as James Watson and Francis Crick respectively, is more of a charismatic duo who see their chance to make themselves famous, even if it means stealing someone else's work. ...As Wilkins and Franklin's assistant Ray Gosling, Benjamin Harris adds moments of levity, including a couple of big laughs, as Gosling tries to eliminate the conflicts the two have. The Farnsworth Studio at the Mesa Arts Center has been reconfigured into a thrust stage with the audience on three sides of the action. This allows director Kelly Galvin and her all-female creative team to deliver an intimacy to the play with Galvin's staging quite effective, as she plants her cast on the various steps in the seating areas many times throughout the play. This move pulls us instantly in to the story. ...I'm not positive how much of Ziegler's script is fact, verses fiction, yet one thing is certain—without Rosalind's photograph we may never have discovered the secret of life." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

COMING SOON - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

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