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A play that is just two hours long should not attempt to do too much, and this one tries unsuccessfully to combine serious thinking about the problems of a modern, liberal scientist with a pixie-like humor derived from having a character play the scientist's mind. Raymond Massey, as the former, reads the New Republic and for three acts carefully compares the validity of his duties to his family and to the world. Meanwhile an assortment of bad and middling actors walk in and out, dramatizing the arguments each way. This sort of thing begins to be terribly tedious toward the middle of the second act, and the curious things that start to happen when Massey is left alone on the stage help things only slightly. A little man, dressed as Massey, climbs out of a chimney (the set is a roof) and starts to berate his master, presumably the body and emotions of the scientist, for just about everything that he has said and done in the previous scene. All this falls somewhere short of delightful.
The "mind" sequences are neither novel nor completely clear. At least the purpose of the whimsy in the Pinocchio--Jiminy Cricket combo was evident from beginning to end, but here Massey's mind is a rebellious servant, while Massey minus mind is a master. The idea is frightening, betokening perhaps a now return to sentimental emotionalism, where we send though packing and live in a make-believe world of noble savgery.
For all its eccentricities, "How I Wonder" tries very hard to be honest. The scientist can take the presidency of a Southern college and keep quiet on political questions, or he can give up everything and in his ineffectual way try to prevent another war. A woman from another planet, also in his mind, makes up his mind for him, when atomic fission explodes her planet and it becomes a star, which he finds on his photographic plates. By this time the much-bruited question of whether the fellow is out of his mind should have been settled, but the author still seems to think that he is sane. And then, alas, there are sexy jokes concerning this woman spook and Massey's infidelity to his loving wife.
The play has good dialogue, and may have some slight success on Broadway, with some of the actors removed and a good deal of polishing. Everett Sloane, as the mind, does a lot with a ridiculous role, and Massey is his imperturbable self.
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