Review “QED”

RECOMMENDED

Where: theatre4humanity at Collaboraction Theatre, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave., 3rd floor
When: through Dec. 9
Tickets: $18-$25
Phone: 866-212-4077

One of the coolest things about “QED,” theatre4humanity’s collaboration with Collaboraction Theatre on Peter Parnell’s play about world-famous theoretical physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988), is the in-the-square scenic design. Courtney O’Neill has transformed a bare room into Feynman’s office circa 1986, bringing the audience into the equation by surrounding us with blackboard walls covered with his mathematical formulas, diagrams, and epigrams. Here the multifaceted scientist treats us to free-wheeling combination day-in-the-life and lecture, as he ostensibly prepares to give a talk entitled “What We Know.” With a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor, he touches on key points in his career — participation in the Manhattan Project (where he picked the locks on colleagues’ desks containing secret documents in his spare time), his role on the commission investigating the Challenger disaster, winning the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his work in quantum electrodynamics —and reveals some of his other talents, among them drawing and Native American drumming. A lively raconteur, he talks about his travels, including unsuccessful efforts to visit the Tuva people. His struggles with cancer also emerge, leading to meditations on life and death and the demise of his first wife from tuberculosis. Naturally, there are explanations of his scientific breakthroughs (nanotechnology and all that) but they don’t overwhelm the other material.