Copenhagen

Though playwright Michael Frayn's virtues as a historian have been hotly debated in the decade since his speculative historical whodunit played on Broadway, no one can deny his instincts as a crack storyteller. After all, dramatic stakes don't come higher than moral responsibility for the development of the atomic bomb. Frayn's thesis is that the Allies' mistaken belief that the Nazis were actively engaged in a bomb program — a conviction that culminated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki — can be traced to a fateful 1941 meeting in occupied Copenhagen between German physicist Werner Heisenberg (Skip Pipo), author of the uncertainty principle and head of the Nazi uranium program, and his former mentor, Dutch theoretical physicist Niels Bohr (David Ross Paterson), the father of quantum mechanics and contributor to the Manhattan Project. The circumstances of that meeting, and the conflicting memories of exactly what was said or was understood by the two principals, are argued and reenacted from the perspective of some otherworldly realm. Bohr's wife, Margrethe (Sarah Lilly), who was present but out of earshot of the disputed conversation, serves as a kind of prosecuting catalyst to the action. The good news is that the intimacy of director August Viverito's pared parlor staging (Viverito is also credited for production design) does away with the ostentatious redundancy of the Broadway production's grand tribunal set; this allows the play's human dimensions — and riveting, nuanced performances by a terrific ensemble — to take center stage. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through May 29. (818) 786-1045. A Production Company production.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: April 23. Continues through May 29, 2010