False Assumptions is an original play by local playwright Lawrence Aronovitch (currently Playwright in residence at the GCTC). Commissioned specifically to be presented by the Ottawa Theatre School’s 3rd year graduates (in association with Plosive Productions), it is a play about the life of Marie Curie.
Should you see it?
False Assumptions opens in a form of limbo where we’re introduced to three other female scientists from history (Rosalind Franklin, Ada Lovelace, Hypatia) who find themselves surrounded by the irradiated and glowing notebooks of Marie Curie – two time Nobel Prize winner for her research on radioactivity.
The play is split between that trio learning of Curie’s life through her notebooks while engaging in delicious banter, and the re-enactments of what they’re reading, showing pieces of the life of Marie Curie.
The Marie Curie scenes in the first act, particularly between Madame Curie and her husband Pierre, were strong and engaging. Hannah Gibson-Fraser does a wonderful job bringing a driven Marie Curie to life. She even manages to show distinct difference in Marie’s age (as scenes jump back in time to her childhood) with changes in speech patterns and posture alone. Nick Fournier, the only male cast member, also commands a lot of presence on stage as Pierre Curie and the chemistry between the two brings their scenes to life.
Also strong, both in the writing and in the portrayal, were the characterizations of Rosalind (Holly Griffith), Ada (Alexis Scott), and Hypatia (Karina Milech). The characters were all quite different and their conflicting attitudes, based largely on the era they come from, brought a lot of laughs.
While entertaining on the surface, however, their scenes (which account for half of the play) are heavy on information, light on drama. A lot of discussion is had and information is given, but not a lot is actually happening. We’re told a lot about both Marie Curie and the struggles of women in science, but we’re a step or two removed from seeing any of it play out. This is a pattern that follows into even the Marie Curie scenes of the second act, where it’s hard to get a sense of what’s driving us forward.
It’s not labeled as such (and I’m not a fan of such labels to begin with) but it almost feels like a docudrama or an essay about the life and times of Marie Curie. While docudramas on stage aren’t really my favourite thing, the strength of the characters as written by Aronovitch and how they’re brought to life by the cast really serve to elevate this production.
But that’s just my opinion and I would love to know what you think. What did you learn from False Assumptions? Did I totally miss the point? Tell me what you think in the comments below.
You have until March 30th to catch False Assumptions, running at the Gladstone. Check out our preview for more information about the show including video interview, ticket info, and all related press.