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Date: April 16, 2005


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By Carl Djerassi


now playing at New End Theatre until May 14 2005


'Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all ye know onearth, and all ye need to know.' Thus John Keats, poet and scientist - hequalified as a doctor - elegantly contradicts received wisdom and links thosetwo auld enemies Art and Science.


Mind you, in the olden days, there was not such a specialistdivide as there is today; those golden days of yore when accomplished peoplecould turn their hands to say discovering gravity in the morning, and followthat with playing in a string quartet after a good lunch. We have all witnessednarrow-minded artists opining that only art is good and everything else ismind-numbing and mundane, as well as scientists in their ivory towers sniffingdown at the ignorant hoi polloi and proclaiming that we can't do, believe, orhave for breakfast anything until it has been scientifically proven - by themof course.


Playwright Carl Djerassi is a citizen of both the artisticand scientific communities, as Keats was, and his latest play Phallacy takes afull-frontal look at this social divide. The fascinating main issue is whethera work of art that is aesthetically pleasing, becomes more so the more ancientthat we believe it is.


At the centre of Djerassi's fictional controversy is an almostperfect bronze statue of a gorgeous naked young man. The art historian ReginaLeitner-Opfermann has been tenderly guarding this young man's honour for years,in her job as chief curator of antiquities in a Viennese museum. She has builther reputation on him, has written a book explaining the evidence for him beingof ancient Roman origin, and is taking advantage of the lecture circuit too topublicise her beliefs.


Enter Rex Stolzfuss, scientist extraordinaire, bent onproving her wrong through analysis of the metal and the constructiontechniques. He is convinced that our young man came of age at a time no earlierthan the Renaissance, and is no more than a copy of the ancient original. But,of course, that still makes him a good 400 years old.


These two divas clash relentlessly amidst threats ofexposés and analyses of the documentary evidence - which may even turnup a more interesting history. Djerassi here conjures two Renaissance figuresto tell their story: Don Juan of Austria and his estranged mother. There isalso a rather superficial plot device involving a love affair between the youngassistants of the art historian and scientist, culminating in a 'Harry metSally' type double telephone conversation.


But overall, this is intriguing and thought-provoking stuff,and very well acted. And, for argument's sake, I think that Keats's Grecian Urngot it spot on.



Reviewed by Julia Hickman for Theatreworld InternetMagazine