May 4-11 2005
New End Theatre
Carl Djerassi’sarts-versus-sciences detective yarn begins with a lecture: ReginaLeitner-Opfermann, a specialist in classical antiquities, is expounding the aestheticperfections of a Roman statue of a youth in her collection. When the subject ofmaterial analysis is raised, she declares the question ‘dull’—unawarethat a team of chemists led by Rex Stolzfuss is about to use informationrelating to the proportions of trace metals found in the statue’s bronze toprove that her beloved Roman boy is in fact a Renaissance fake, or at best acopy.
“Phallacy” is the latest ofeminent chemist Djerassi’s ‘science-in-theatre’ plays. Suggested by a truestory, the piece is packed with fascinating scientific and art historicalfacts, but is at its best dramatically when it concentrates on academicsatire—armed with his devastating findings, ‘cocksure’ Rex begins byclaiming that he wants to be ‘collegial’ but soon sets out to prove that Reginais not only scientifically ignorant but art-historically incompetent too. Theslow-moving sixteenth-century flashback adds little to the interest of thepiece, however, and the handling of the battle-of-the-sexes strand of thestory—both chemists are male, both art historians females—lackssureness of touch: the sub-plot concerning the angle of fall of the statue’spenis provides the evening with a slightly limp climax.
And Jordan production has some nice performances—fansof ‘Monarch of the Glen’ will want to catch Hamish Clark in slouchy, affableboyish mode as Rex’s assistant Otto.