Conceived by Axis Company; Directed by Randy Sharp. At the Axis Theater. (CLOSED)
Reaction spans from A+ to D+ for Axis Company's take on J. Robert Oppenheimer. While even naysayers appreciate the choice to focus on parallels between the Manhattan Project and various stories from Genesis (the Fall of Man, Abraham and Isaac etc.), they find it too brief, too vague and strangely cast. Martin Denton at NYTheatre.com flat out loves the show, calling it "extraordinary and intense".
(Martin Denton) In 40 compact, taut minutes, the most enormous and fundamental themes are explored and distilled. This extraordinary and intense new play from Axis Company proves to be both as beautiful and as explosive as the remarkable gallery of tiny photographs of mushroom clouds that adorns the theatre lobby.
New Theater Corps> B+
(Cindy Pierre) In 50 minutes, the Axis Company manages to tickle the audience intellectually and visually. The aesthetics help to evoke the “imagine-ifs” of the play, while Randy Sharp's strong direction elicits fiery but casual performances from the cast. For all the various manifestations of power in this production, it’s the power of suggestion that hits hardest: we sometimes destroy ourselves in an effort to protect ourselves. If you leave the theater understanding that, you'll be taking some of that power with you.
(Mitch Montgomery) Uneasy nuclear paranoia radiates from Trinity 5:29, Axis Company?s brisk, deftly staged meditation on Robert Oppenheimer and the test of the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Rather than a straight docudrama, director Randy Sharp has opted instead to focus on the historical weight of the test, often evoking religious allusions to good effect... Director Sharp and his designers economically create a spooky, sanitized aesthetic using only tinny period music, hard lights and a few set pieces. The staging is meticulous and purposely rigid, probably to highlight the military aspects of the narrative. Brian Barnhart, Marc Palmieri and Britt Genelin turn in solid performances as Truman, Groves and Tatlock, respectively, but Edgar Oliver's Oppenheimer is a bizarrely theatrical creature, nearing the realm of farce. Not an inappropriate choice considering Oppenheimer's larger-than-life historical status, but next to the more grounded cast members, Oliver's velvety line readings evoked old Hollywood more than nuclear physics.
(Mark Peikert) Presenting the detonation of the first atomic bomb in New Mexico on July 16, 1945 as a series of Biblical parables, Trinity 5:29 will be totally bewildering to any audience member who doesn't arrive either fully versed in that fateful morning or with enough time to read the instructive program notes. Oppenheimer (Edgar Oliver) and his girlfriend Jean Tatlock (Britt Genelin) pace up and down the stage before the first detonation, arguing with President Harry S. Truman (Brian Barnhart) and General Leslie Groves (Marc Palmieri). But the actors aren't just playing these historical figures; they're also portraying them as Biblical characters. At any given point, Jean and Oppenheimer's relationship can be viewed through the filter of the story of Adam and Eve or Abraham and Isaac. Unfortunately, at a pared down running time of less than 50 minutes, the Axis Company hasn't really given itself much time to delve into the parallels between these perennial Sunday-school favorites and the birth of modern warfare. Nor are the transitions from one Biblical story to another made very clear.
Time Out NY D+
(Andy Propst) unfortunately, this modern twist on the medieval mystery play is simply a series of jagged, portentous scenes and tableaux that jet through time, leading to the moment when the bomb is detonated. Markedly discordant performances only further undermine the unsatisfying piece. Barnhart and Genelin deliver charmingly muted performances as the homespun Truman and the nervously addled Tatlock, but Oliver and Palmieri's work as scientist and general, respectively, seem to have been modeled on campy B movies. Style triumphs over substance, and as in most Axis productions, the design elements are impeccable.
Village Voice D+
(Trav S.D.) 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)...I found myself leaving the theater with an expression more mystified than moved.
NYTR A+ 14; NTC B+ 11; OOO B 10; BS C- 6; TONY D+ 5; VV D+ 5; TOTAL = 51/6= 8.5 (B-/C+)