March 2002

Science, Madness, and Morality 

In "The Physicists" (1962), one of Friedrich Durrenmatt's title characters notes "a lot of talk nowadays about physicists' moral responsibilities," and calls it all "nonsense." Join us for an evening of nonsense Wednesday, March 13, when we discuss "The Physicists." In a mental institution run by a wealthy, hunchbacked aristocrat, one patient swears he's Isaac Newton; a second insists he's Albert Einstein; & a third claims that, through regular visits from King Solomon, he's discovered certain fundamental principles--whose disclosure could annihilate all humanity. An "intelligent thriller" (Nation) that makes "forceful" & "eloquent" points about "pure amoral research in science" (New York Times), "The Physicists" is "ingenious" (New York Daily News), "disturbing" (New York Post), & "grotesquely humorous" (Saturday Review).  Durrenmatt is best known for The Visit (1955).

Durrenmatt's plays depict "a corrupt world controlled by fiends through wealth or technology," in which people "find personal consolation in small, individual acts." So writes our March speaker, Roger Crockett, in "Understanding Friedrich Durrenmatt" (1998). Professor Crockett heads the German & Russian department at Washington and Lee University, where in 1995 he directed a production of "The Physicists."

We will meet at Cafe Midi Cuisine, 1635 Connecticut Ave., NW (202-234-3090). Dinner starts at 6:30; our discussion takes place 7:30-9:30. At exactly 6:30 you can find parking on 18th St. near R St., NW, and on R St. on either side of Connecticut Ave.

Make reservations any time, day or night: call 202-898-4825 or e-mail [email protected]. "The Physicists" study at Backstage Books, 545 8th St., SE, &--for a special discount--at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, & Olsson's Books & Records, 1307 19th St., NW & 7647 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda.

Science & Pseudoscience

Late 19th-century scientists took seriously a new discipline: spiritualism, the theory that one can communicate with the dead. But by the 1940s, sophisticates treated spiritualism with ridicule. Thus Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" (1941), which we discuss Thursday, April 18. In "Blithe Spirit," a skeptical novelist seeks a professional charlatan on whom to model a fictional fraud. So he hires a medium, with startlingly spooky results. An "uproarious" comedy (New York Times), "Blithe Spirit" is "riotous fun" (New York Daily News), both "brilliant" (New Yorker) & "thoroughly delightful" (Nation). Our meeting will feature director Tim Vasen, whose production of Blithe Spirit we'll see 2 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at Center Stage, 700 N. Calvert St. in downtown Baltimore. We have $19 balcony tickets & $26 tickets downstairs. Our tickets are few & we cannot issue refunds. Mail your check to Robin Larkin, 5403 Nibud Ct., Rockville, MD 20852. To arrange transportation or get directions, call 240-669-6300 or e-mail [email protected].

Footlights' Greatest Hits

This spring, Footlights presents our Greatest Hits Festival: performances of five plays we've already discussed, & finally have the chance to see on stage. Each depicts a lost world or real-life events, with many characters based on actual historical figures. Our spring spree starts 3 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at Round House Theatre, 12210 Bushey Dr., Silver Spring, with the political thriller "Shakespeare, Moses, and Joe Papp" (2002), by Ernie Joselovitz. Tickets are $17. At Arena Stage, 1101 6th St., SW, Thursday, May 23 at 8 p.m., we'll see "A Moon for the Misbegotten" (1947), Eugene O'Neill's bittersweet elegy for his brother James. Tickets are $32. On Sunday, June 2, at 2:30 p.m., we'll see Warren Leight's Tony award-winning love ballad to the forgotten world of jazz, "Side Man" (1998). Tickets are $16. The performance takes place at Everyman Theatre, 1727 N. Charles St. in downtown Baltimore. For a special treat, at the Voice of America, 330 Independence Ave., SW, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, we'll see a live audio taping of "The Heidi Chronicles" (1988), Wendy Wasserstein's Pulitzer prize-winning portrayal of the baby-boom generation from the radical 1960s through the mercenary 1980s. Tickets are $24. Our festival ends 2 p.m. Sunday June 23, at the new Round House Theatre, 7501 Wisconsin Ave. in downtown Bethesda, with another Pulitzer prize-winning lament for a lost world, Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" (1938). Tickets are $22. For payment deadlines & refund conditions, go to & click on "Calendar." Mail your check today to Robin Larkin, 5403 Nibud Ct., Rockville, MD 20852. To arrange transportation or get directions, call 240-669-6300 or e-mail [email protected].

Meeting Calendar

Wednesday, Mar. 13: "The Physicists," Cafe Midi
Thursday, Apr. 18: "Blithe Spirit," Delray Viet Gdn
Monday, May 13: "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds," Cafe Midi
Tuesday, June 18: "Y2K" ("BecauseHeCan"), site TBA
Wednesday, July 24: "Rain. Some Fish. No Elephants.," Delray Viet Gdn

all Footlights meetings run from 7:30-9:30 p.m., with dinner from 6:30-7:30.

Greatest Hits Festival

Saturday, Apr. 6: "Shakespeare, Moses, and Joe Papp," Round House Theatre, $17
Thursday, May 23: "A Moon for the Misbegotten," Arena Stage, $32
Sunday, June 2: "Side Man," Everyman Theatre, $16
Wednesday, June 5: "The Heidi Chronicles," Voice of America, $24
Sunday, June 23: "Our Town," Round House Theatre, $22

More Information

For more information about Footlights, check our website, You can subscribe to our list & receive our monthly e-letter for free by sending any message--even blank--to [email protected].