As this new century was dawning and Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen was running in London’s West End, three physicists traveled to London to see the physics-inspired play. While en route, they tweaked the Big Bang theory and potentially changed forever the way we view the origins of the universe. Just as Frayn speculated on the historical record when writing Copenhagen, Carole Buggé has toyed with the physicists’ journey to create a jumbled potboiler of a play. Buggé reimagines one of the travelers as a woman, June (Mia Dillon), and creates an awkward love triangle among the three. Another of Buggé’s conceits is that all three physicists are reeling from repercussions of 9-11. When June, George (Keir Dullea) and Rory (Warren Kelley) cannot understand why science fails to provide answers for their personal dilemmas, physicists Sir Isaac Newton (Drew Dix), Marie Curie (Andrea Gallo), and Max Planck (Kurt Elftmann) appear to give counsel.
These figures’ arrivals and a dramatic shift at the beginning of Act II are attributed to M-theory, which explains the composition of the universe using an underlying assumption of many dimensions and parallel universes. In theatrical theory, Buggé’s dramaturgy should work, but theatrical practice proves otherwise. Though intelligent, the overstuffed play convinces neither as romantic drama nor as discourse on physics nor, with its myriad temporal shifts, as science fiction. Martin Kaye’s pedestrian direction does little to illuminate the play’s many facets; instead, it erases any tension that exists surrounding the love triangle and removes any anticipation audiences may feel for Buggé’s twisting plotlines.
Dillon, Dullea (of filmdom’s 2001: A Space Odyssey) and Kelley work valiantly to achieve an emotional reality for their characters and struggle to make the play’s science lucid and easily digestible. Unfortunately, Strings ultimately never becomes more than—to borrow from another scientific theory—theatrical “primordial soup.”