Ever since Copenhagen made a hit on Broadway, science in theatre has become hip. While QED starring Alan Alda contemplates quantum electrodynamics up in Los Angeles March 22-May 13, San Diego Repertory takes a breath of Oxygen, making its world premiere April 2-7 on the Lyceum Stage.
Oxygen is the brainchild of two scientific celebrities, Carl Djerassi and Roald Hoffman. Djerassi is the father of the contraceptive pill, while Hoffman won the 1981 Nobel Prize in chemistry. When they decided to exploit their combined literary talents, they discovered they were both fascinated by the possibility theatricality of the discovery of oxygen.
Set in 2001 and the 1700's, Oxygen finds the Nobel committee seeking to award the first posthumous Prize to the discoverer of oxygen. Only the committee can't decide who that is. In 1774, three men stumbled on the element - English minister Joseph Priestly while experimenting at the father of chemistry Antoine Laurent Lavoisier's home and Swedish apothocary Carl Wilhelm Scheele. Lavoisier, aware that the other two didn't understand the significance of their discovery, claimed the chemical triumph as his own. In a scene reenacting the Judgement of Stockholm, the men recreate their experiments in an effort to prove their right to the title of discoverer of oxygen.
Randall Dodge, Jeff Anthony Miller and Lou Seitchik star as Lavoiser, Scheele and Priestley, respectively. Also in the cast are Diane Addis (Mary Priestly, Professor Astric Rosenqvist), Jennifer Austin (Sara Margaretha Pohl, Ulla Zorn) and Erin Cronican (Marie Anne Pierrette Paulze Lavoisier).