Should've by Roald Hoffmann

Dates and Venue 4-8 March 2008 @ 7.30pm | Frederic Wood Theatre, UBC Campus

Director Stephen Heatley Composer and Sound Paul Morgan Donald Sets Daniel van Heyst Videograph and Projection Reuben Mahaffy Stage Manager Shannon Macelli

Reviewer Jane Penistan

To kick off UBC’s Celebrate Research Week Theatre at UBC presents Should’ve, a play discussing the responsibilities and ethics of science, art, and philosophy. Written by Roald Hoffmann an internationally recognized and respected Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, this was first performed in Turin as part of the bi-annual IUPAC Chemistry Conference in 2007.

The short scenes move from laboratory and office to an artist’s studio by ingeniously designed pieces moved by the cast. Projections on the backdrop supply brilliantly realized images relevant to the text. Here art and science are conjoined to produce the setting for the actors.

The first scene takes place after the discovery of the suicide of Professor Friedrich Wertheim, a German born professor of chemistry. On stage, in his office, are the late professor’s daughter, Kate (Michele Brown) also a scientist, his estranged second wife, Julia (Holly Turner) and his daughter’s Argentine/ American artist friend, Stefan (Robert Clinton). They are discussing why he should have taken his own life and reminiscing about his high standards of ethical behaviour.

It transpires that the professor has recently published an article on how to synthesize a lethal toxin. The news that this had been used for a mass murder in Uzbekistan had just been reported in the press.

From here on the three characters put forward their ideas of their own responsibilities for the consequences of their individual work and the unforeseen manifestations of good or evil.

As the Nazi regime had used Art for propaganda and chemical discoveries for the death camps so still new ideas in art and new discoveries in science can and are being used for evil as well as good.

All Art is neither all good nor evil and the same must be said of Science. What is good for some of the population is may not be so for the others. Human relationships are questioned and the uncomfortable relationship between Julia and Kate is resolved.

This is an introspective work leaving the audience with much to ponder. Because the argument is well presented it was received with great enthusiasm by the first night audience. A question and answer period with the Dr Hoffmann, following the curtain call, was an added bonus and great privilege.

© 2008 Jane Penistan