Shirley Laura has written an intriguing play about the behind-the-scenes life of two-time Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Polish-born Marie Curie—her full name was Marie Sklodowska Curie. The drama juxtaposes her laboratory discovery of radium in metal with her romantic entanglement that caused a scandal and threatened her career. The work was given an effective reading at the National Arts Club (June 18, 2012) as part of a series hosted by Robin Lane-Krauss.
A presentation of this sort requires a strong leading lady, and this one was fortunate to have reading the role of Curie the excellent Angelica Page, currently playing on Broadway in the revival of “The Best Man.”
Page began in an understated fashion, but gradually conveyed Curie’s mixed feelings of love and pain in relation to the relationship with Paul Langevin, a married man with children, played appealingly by Jack Cutmore-Scott. They fall deeply in love, but he won’t leave his wife despite her urging, and the discovery of their love letters leads to a pubic scandal in France to the point of threats against her life.
According to the play, it also leads to a strong position by Curie, who, when the Nobel Prize committee demands that she not go to Sweden to accept in person her second Nobel award because of the scandal, writes a strong letter informing the committee that private life has nothing to do with achievements in science and that she was coming to collect what was due her. It is a proud statement of principle and a blow in behalf of women trying to achieve accomplishments in their own right.
I will leave the experts on Curie to deal with how accurate Lauro has been in the writing. But as theater the reading shows the potential for strong drama with the work a possibility for a full production.
Other members of the effective cast included Hannah Timmons giving a stalwart performance as Curie’s niece, Larry Block as the chief paymaster of the Sorbonne, Timothy Doyle as a professor, and Con Horgan as Lord Kelvin. Playwright Lauro was in the audience.
Such programs—this was Robin Lane-Krauss’s 18th presentation—turn a spotlight on works of interest, some new and some of which have been works of the past worthy of fresh attention. Review posted June 20, 2012.