Seniors Jackson Dulla and Elise DeCarli laugh at the script of "Moving Bodies," based on the life of eccentric physicist Richard Feynman. (Photo by Kelsi Thomas).

New play dramatizes life, work of quirky physicist Richard Feynman

The spring play, “Moving Bodies,” stays true to its title. Not only does it have a lot of bodies, it also has a lot of moving—through time, that is.

And while some directors might see this as problematic, Country Day’s own, Brian Frishman, chose the play for this very reason.

The play, which he describes as a “dramedy,” tells the story of famous and quirky American physicist Richard Feynman by carrying the viewer through his various life stages.

It starts when he is an adolescent (and only discovering his interest in physics) and concludes when Feynman is an elderly man (and reflecting on his life as a physicist).

And, as the title hints, there are two actors in the main role. Seniors Jacob Frankel and Jackson Dulla will play the younger and older Feynman, respectively.

Frankel’s role spans Feynman’s work in developing the atomic bomb, as well as his meeting and falling in love with his first wife Arline Greenbaum, played by senior Annie Bell in the first act (senior Elise DeCarli plays Feynman’s next wife in the second).

In the second act, Dulla’s portrayal of the physicist deals with his work on the Los Alamos (Manhattan) Project, along with his teaching at Caltech University.

Despite the heavy historical and scientific overtones, Frishman said Feynman’s character adds  comedy to the play.

“The subject matter is serious, but it has a lot of humor,” Frishman said.

“It is a light-hearted look at serious subjects, which reflects Feynman’s personality.”

And Feynman’s personality was certainly “complex,” according to Frankel.

In Feynman’s New York Times obituary, writer James  Gleick wrote, “Dr. Feynman was a curious character. He was never content with what he knew or what other people knew. He taught himself how to fix radios, pick locks, draw nudes, speak Portuguese, play the bongos and decipher Mayan hieroglyphics.”

He also won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to quantum electrodynamics and is associated with the atomic bomb and the investigation of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. The play highlights his philosophies, which, according to Frishman, include embracing life, being interested in a multitude of things, and challenging authority.

Both Dulla and Frankel were cast by Frishman beforehand, he said.

“I know their work—I can rely on them (as actors), and not just their personalities, to play the part,” Frishman said.

“Both have been leads in dramas and comedies for me, so I knew they would both be perfect for the part.”

Frishman does envision problems, however.

Due to the complex storyline, many locations are needed for the set. Frishman will handle this by using black curtains to divide the stage into three sections representing different locations—a college setting, a neutral space, and the Feynman home.

“It is going to be technically difficult because of the limitations of equipment, like our lights which are pretty basic,” Frishman said.

Regardless, Dulla is eager, viewing the play as a final huzzah for the seniors (they account for eight of the ____ in the cast) in their drama careers.

“Everyone wants the perfect play for the last play of their senior year,” Dulla said. “It makes for mixed feelings—I’m excited because I love acting, but I’m sad because it’s the last play ever.”

The play, written by Arthur Giron, is set to open Thursday, March 14.

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