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Dropping a bomb

Posted by Katie Johnston Chase January 11, 2008 10:08 AM


An amazing thing happened during the ART's production of "Copenhagen" the other night: An actor had to call for her line.

Three important things to know about Michael Frayn's World War II-era play about the atomic bomb: The dialog about nuclear fission and human relationships is extremely complex, and nonstop; the characters (a German physicist, a Danish physicist, and his wife) are onstage the entire time; and the show is two and a half hours long.

So it's really not that amazing that Karen MacDonald forgot where she was during the second act. What is amazing is how rarely this happens in professional theater. It was painful to watch MacDonald try to cover the gap, and even more painful to see her stop mid-speech and say, "I'm sorry -- line." The stage director had to call it out from the back of the house, so it wasn't as if nobody noticed.

MacDonald recovered beautifully, but it definitely jolted us out of German-occupied Denmark. At the same time, it was a reminder of just how hard actors are working up there, having to recall thousands of words in just the right order and say them in just the right way. Instead of being annoyed, I came away more appreciative of their craft.

So thanks, Karen. I'm sure you were mortified, but it gave the play an even deeper meaning for me.

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