Eric | 2/17/2014
" I just reread this 12/07. Heisenberg meets Bohr in Copenhagen September 1941 and their long-standing relationship crumbles -- but what was discussed? Years later not even the two protagonists could agree on the details of this encounter. This is the script to Frayn's play -- a clever, entertaining read that explores 'uncertainty' from multiple angles. One of my favorite short pieces, and one I go back to time and again. "
Jenny | 2/12/2014
" I wish this had come with stage directions, because it was difficult to understand some of the dialogue without knowing how they were interacting (or not) on stage. Interesting subject, first act was much better than the second, I thought the author was trying too hard to make quantum mechanics match the possibilities of what happened at Bohr's home. "
Gerri Leen | 1/29/2014
" I saw this play on Broadway in 2000--the year it won the Tony for best play--and loved it. Since I've had a horrible run of books, I decided to change my luck and read something I knew I would love. Good call on my part. Such a joy to re-experience this amazing study of three people (Danish Physicist Niels Bohr and his wife Margrethe, and German Physicist Werner Heisenberg) as they, in a very quantum way, try to figure out why Heisenberg came to Copenhagen in 1941 to meet with Bohr and what he said to him that night during a walk that so upset Bohr that it ended a friendship that was so strong it was nearly father/son. I will be honest: when I saw this in the theater, at least a third of the audience left at intermission. It's not for the meek: Michael Frayn assumes you've got some basic knowledge about history and physics, and he's not going to dumb it down for you. Which I loved. There is also humor in the play, but it's physics humor. The story reboots several times as observers interact to try to figure out how they impacted the events of that fateful night, how other events impacted their perception of that night, and even if they can really ever understand their own or anyone else's behavior.
My favorite lines from the play are these:
"We put man back at the center of the universe. Throughout history we keep finding ourselves displaced. We keep exiling ourselves to the periphery of things. First we turn ourselves into a mere adjunct of God's unknowable purposes, tiny figures keeling in the great cathedral of creation. And no sooner have we recovered ourselves in the Renaissance, no sooner has man become, as Protagoras proclaimed him, the measure of all things, than we're pushed aside again by the products of our own reasoning! We're dwarfed again as physicists build the great new cathedrals for us to wonder at--the laws of classical mechanics that predate us from the beginning of eternity , that will survive us to eternity's end, that exist whether we exist or not. Until we come to the beginning of the twentieth century, and we're suddenly forced to rise from our knees again."
"It starts with Einstein."
"It starts with Einstein. He shows that measurement--measurement on which the whole possibility of science depends--measurement is not an impersonal event that occurs with impartial universality. It's a human act, carried out from a specific point of view in time and space, from the one particular viewpoint of a possible observer. Then, here in Copenhagen in those three years in the mid-twenties we discover that there is no precisely determinable objective universe. That the universe exists only as a series of approximations. Only within the limits determined by our relationship with it. Only through the understanding lodged inside the human head."
This one stands out for me (can you imagine having to learn these lines??) but there are tons more of gems in this play. It's dense material--and I mean of course the definition that goes with matter not the one that means stupid--but it's moving and at times funny. And chilling. These men and their friendship and its demise intersected with a terrible point in history: they weren't at odds over a fence line, it literally was the fate of the free world.
If you want to view it, there is a--how to put this tactfully? Oh to hell with it--dumbed down version from PBS available on netflix with Daniel Craig playing Heisenberg. They cut out a lot of dialogue, what humor there is in the play is gone from this, and they've chosen to show it as a traditional production rather than as the play is produced (in tight quarters to mimic the atom--or a courtroom: in the stage production, a small part of the audience sits on stage looking down on the actors from a high rounded area, like a tribunal). I don't know that the story is actually helped by all the space and lush settings the PBS production has put in. They are distractions to the plot. They also use voiceovers to help the viewer (I guess) but it's confusing, I think--although perhaps others find the play confusing with it all being dialogue no matter when the action takes place (it's quantum--it's not always linear). The DVD comes with a prologue and epilogue from the playwright, which are informative and well done.
A lovely interlude and now I'm off to try new things again and probably hit some real duds. But that's okay. I'll always have Copenhagen. "
Elaine | 1/25/2014
" Ooo! I saw this one performed. My theatre prof has specifically chosen this one because the she knew there was a going to be a production. I learned a ton about Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and theoretical physics (maybe not a ton about that) while investigating this play. "
Aathavan | 1/22/2014
" This play brings the ghosts of Bohr, his wife and his former student Heisenberg together to analyse their meeting in 1941 in the thick of World war II. What follows is an engrossing narrative that weaves their personal lives and the physics they discovered with the politics of the time and the principal characters in the development of quantum mechanics and the bomb. "
Barbara Fang | 1/19/2014
" An incredibly erudite text. I feel like I would've appreciated this more if I had any groundwork in theoretical and/or quantum physics, but I don't. It's not an unapproachable text, though. I'm going to have to sit and ponder about this one. "
Patrick Hennessy | 1/19/2014
" A little thick. A little slow. "
Stefan | 1/19/2014
" Review will have to wait until after the book club meets- too many prying eyes.... "
Blanca | 12/30/2013
" I'm continuously baffled by how Michael Frayn manages to write the most interesting plays. It has the most compelling dialogs, physics, politics, a mysterious meeting during wartime and shady motivations. What's not to love. "
Katya | 12/1/2013
" A very short, but intense play on what could have happened during the mysterious meeting between physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in 1941 in Copenhagen. "
Ben | 11/12/2013
" A fascinating and mentally engaging play about two WWII scientists. "
Xendan | 10/10/2013
" Wonderful piece of physics and philosophy. Loved watching it, and loved reading it. Although it seems to be the meeting of two scientists, the book is about everything. Relativity, quantum mechanics, friendship, "plain language" ... Great book of the history itself as well. "
Paula | 9/3/2013
" Physics and history create art and drama. What might have happened between Heisenberg, head of the Nazi atomic bomb program, and Niels Bohr, who worked on the Manhattan Project. "
Samantha Dalton | 7/21/2013
" I loved this. I never usually read plays, and this is very different from a normal play. But the content is SO interesting to me. I'm actually really inspired to research this topic further by reading the non-fiction works Frayn cited in the postscript. "
Barry | 6/22/2013
" saw the play in London- read and re-read the script- marvelous. "
Leigh | 2/21/2013
" Here, and in Democracy , Frayn is writing a kind of historical play of ideas that no one else in contemporary theater is tackling. And I'm so glad he is. "
Gustavo | 12/2/2012
" Amazing play that captures one of the most amazing and secret scientific discoveries. What a read! "
Amy | 9/4/2012
" Confused by this. Maybe you just had to be there. Frayn's language is brilliant, elegant and powerful, but a play with only 3 characters, no stage directions and on the topic of nuclear physics....? I do think I would like to actually see a performance, but reading it was very tough going. "
Jeffrey Mervosh | 7/10/2012
" Very interesting interplay between science, politics, and philosophy. A short read, but well worth it. "