Theater archives

Trinity 5:29’s Manhattan Project Story Not Exactly Setting World On Fire


I think too highly of the iconoclastic Axis Company to ever accuse them of producing a bomb, but though their current production Trinity 5:29 concerns the Manhattan Project, it doesn’t precisely set the world on fire.

“Trinity” was the code name for the A-bomb tested at Los Alamos. While this story is about the quest for fission, the company, led by director Randy Sharp, hazards instead a technique of fusion, wedding J. Robert Oppenheimer’s experiment in lethal atom splitting to a number of tales from Medieval cycle plays, ranging from Noah’s Ark to Abraham and Isaac. This is potentially as powerful as dramatic material can get, but the script—generated collaboratively by Sharp and the four-person cast—is at once too literal (in its Biblical allusions), too vague (in its dreamlike transplantations of historical details), and too weak (in emotional thrust). The most interesting performances are done against type: Edgar Oliver’s Oppenheimer is subordinated to the actor’s own Karloffian personality, and Brian Barnhart’s Harry Truman forgoes the tough bandy-legged rooster approach for a kind of befuddled banality. But, like his character, I found myself leaving the theater with an expression more mystified than moved.