Written by 3:48 pm Costa Mesa, Review, South Coast Repertory, Theater, Uncategorized

Life Under A Microscope : Photograph 51 @ South Coast Repertory – Review

(Photo by Jordan Kubat/SCR)

Written by Patrick Chavis 

Photograph 51, a production currently at the South Coast Repertory, approaches the autobiographical drama in a new and innovative way.  While the audience puts Rosalind Franklin’s life under a microscope, Franklin uses a lens as well in her — groundbreaking — work of discovering the structure of DNA in this sophisticated meta-narrative.

Photograph 51 is the story of the Rosalind Franklin whose work of researching DNA was pivotal in discovering the structure of DNA. Franklin’s contribution to the discovery of DNA was overlooked, and the same people who benefited from

South Coast Repertory presents “Photograph 51” by Anna Ziegler, directed by Kimberly Senior. Cast: Giovanni Adams (James Watson), George Ketsios (Maurice Wilkins), Anil Margsahayam (Francis Crick), Riley Neldam (Ray Gosling), Josh Odsess-Rubin (Don Caspar), Helen Sadler (Rosalind Franklin). Julianne Argyos Stage, March 3-24, 2019.

her work received a Nobel Prize, and she was unjustly left out. In this production, we follow her life while she was at Kings College in London where she conducted her research during the 1950s.

The stage is slanted so that the audience can accurately see the setup.  There’s black glass and at the center a rectangular wooden center.  In other words, the stage is set up like a microscope slide.


The show covers not only Rosalind’s inner thoughts and feeling but also the thoughts of the colleagues working around her. There’s a great complexity to the situation someone like Franklin was put in. She was Jewish and one of the few women practicing in this male-dominated field. After watching this show writer Anna Ziegler will you leave you with a strong understanding of a woman who wasn’t perfect but was a great scientist and incredibly important to humanity.

There are no typically “devious” characters in this play. All the characters have understandable and relatable, altruistic motivations. That being said, one of the strongest points from this narrative is even with the best intentions and the smartest people in room inequality not only happens but can be swept under the rug.

You would think discussing photographs the audience can’t really see for an hour would be boring. But the dialogue is so intriguing you are kept in suspense, wanting and waiting to figure out what will happen next.

Helen Sadler (Rosalind Franklin) gives a great performance.  She maintains a cold professionalism throughout the entire show but also showcases the character’s softer side as well.

Josh Odeses – Rubin (Don Caspar) during the letter scenes delivers dialogue so poetically, it makes the science sound incredibly beautiful.

The play does an exceptional job of mixing drama, suspense and an exciting autobiographical narrative all into one well-written play.

March 3-24, 2019



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