Clearly, the play covers a lot of ground. Director Chris Smith does a commendable job, aided by designer Kert Lundell, of setting the ever-changing scene. However, some of the transitions are jolting, particularly in the second act. Ultimately, most curious were Giron's choices about what to dramatize--and what not to dramatize. Feynman is perhaps best known (from the best selling book Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman!, among others) as the wacky professor/resident comedian of CalTech's Physics 10 class. As Joan says to him near the play's end, "Who would have thought that what you do best is teach?" Well, from Giron's play no one would have thought that; this whole, 40-year chapter in Feynman's life is handled by the appearance of a young blonde (one of many roles--including show girl, waitress/girlfriend, Washington intern--played by the lovely Julie Leedes) who whisks him off to receive an award from his former students.
And what about Feynman's Nobel Prize? We learn about that from a passing mention during a conversation between two NASA bigwigs in the men's room, just before testimony about the Challenger in a ridiculous government-conspiracy scene. While there is a non-documentary disclaimer in the program, having the chairman of NASA say that Feynman should be killed so that he does not give testimony unfavorable to the space program seems a contestable historical detail.
A large portion of the second act dramatizes Feynman's testimony on the space shuttle's explosion, given while he was suffering from stomach cancer--an unfortunate result of his days at Los Alamos. It's a dramatic, courtroom-type scene in which we hear Feynman's somewhat cynical observations about the "big business" science has become in America over the past 50 years. Chris Ceraso, who does a commendable job of playing Feynman through his many life changes, is at his strongest as the mature scientist. That scene also stands out because it's one of the few times when we actually get to see the professor do, and teach, science--with a demo he creates using a glass of ice water and some clamps from the hardware store to prove the potential effect on the Challenger of cold weather at the time of the launch.
But, despite containing a cameo from the adult Joan (a nice change after Amy Love's lively but previously kid-stuck portrayal), the Challenger scene feels distant from the rest of the play, both thematically and stylistically. So it's a bit of a relief when Feynman, in the play's only non-chronological jump, goes back in time to his father's funeral. There, issues both personal and scientific are put to rest.
In the touching final scene of the play, Feynman addresses his love of women in general (and his deep devotion to his deceased wife in particular) in a letter he composes to Arline two years after her death. Perhaps the brilliant, seemingly contradictory scientist is best revealed by his most confounding, illogical, act: marrying a dying woman. The scenes between Feynman and Arline (played with a welcome lack of sentimentality by Tracy Sallows) are among the play's most honest and most illuminating about the character of the man Richard Feynman.