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German play 'Die Physiker' takes a comedic angle on a physicist's spiral into insanity

German Play

Actors in the play Die Physiker, a story about a scientist who slowly spirals into insanity. 

Photo by Macy Meyer

UNC’s Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures put on its first showing of the play "Die Physiker", which was written by Friedrich Dürrenmatt in 1962, last Tuesday at 6 p.m. The play will be performed once more on April 18 at 5 p.m. at the Toy Lounge in Dey Hall.

The play tells the story of a brilliant physicist’s spiral into insanity after making discoveries that could potentially have disastrous consequences on the world. The plot thickens, showing that modern science has become dangerous and reminding contemporary audiences that nuclear war is still an ever-present possibility. 

Christina Weiler, a professor of German and director of the play, said the performers are all students enrolled in her German theater course (German 374: German Theater) that is centered on examining the intersection of science, nature and culture in plays. Weiler said she selected the particular story due to its relevancy. One of the play’s main themes deals with conflicts over the creation of the atomic bomb and nuclear war, which are still topics very much present today. 

“Part of the reason why we picked it is that it is both very funny, but it also makes you reflect on the topic of science and the responsibility of scientists,” Weiler said. “It is both serious and funny.” 

In addition to being a thought-provoking piece, the play is also a chance for students enrolled in the course to enhance their ability of speaking in another language by performing a two-act play completely in German. 

“I really wanted a chance to get to know my German in more of a theatrical sense and learning how to speak it with emotion rather than just knowing the grammar,” Christopher Piccirillo, who plays the role of the Inspector, said, “I think this has really been beneficial for me and my fluency with German.” 

Weiler said students should come see the next performance because it is a special opportunity to experience a play in a language other than English. Students do not have to worry about not following the plot because the performance is accompanied by a screen projector that summarizes the action in English for non-German speakers. 

“It’s just a lot of fun,” junior JJ Schacht, who plays the role of Patient Einstein, said. “We’ve all gotten the chance to know each other with these rehearsals outside of class. It’s been a great opportunity to immerse ourselves in the German language and culture in a creative and different way than you would normally expect.” 

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