Friday, September 06, 2013

The Realm of Whispering Ghosts: If Truman Met Einstein - NOW PLAYING in Seattle: recommended!

I just saw the first showing of a play I will recommend to you all: "The Realm of Whispering Ghosts: If Truman Met Einstein".

The premise: in the Buddist afterlife, a student killed at Hiroshima and an American POW try to change history by get Truman to discuss the danger of atomic weaponry with Einstein. This is a meeting that might have happened; several atomic scientists worried about the implications of the bomb had tried to talk to the President; perhaps the leading scientist of the age may have had better luck, had not (in one of the many historical details revealed in the play) FDR died before opening his letter asking for a meeting.
This idea could be done well or be done badly, and I'm happy to say that it has been done very well indeed.
It is an extraordinarily thoughtful work, well cast and superbly staged, and designed to raise more questions than it answers. It is necessarily a "talky" play; the characters interact through speech rather than action, because they are fundamentally trying to make decisions. If you need song-and-dance numbers or fight scenes, this is not the work for you.
But within that structure, the play renders every character, and most especially the protagonists not as idealized fictions or Mary Sues, but as persons with competing interests, flaws more unheroic than heroic, and fundamental misunderstandings.

  • On a personal level, the doom has already fallen upon the lovers and they are in the uncomfortable position of attempting to reverse, rather than forestall it.
  • On an historical level, the work is loaded with historical details that advance the plot, or rather, explain why history worked out the way it did.
  • On the political or moral level, the work raises questions that are difficult to answer, because no answer that is apparent to the characters is really satisfactory. 

Only the audience has a God's-eye view, understanding the misunderstandings that prevent a peaceful outcome to the impending clash. It makes you think about our current era; what are we missing that we see no path to peace that does not allow thousands to die.
As proof of the power of the work, I saw the audience discussing these issues most earnestly throughout the intermission and for quite a while after the show.
The Realm of Whispering Ghosts: If Truman Met Einstein
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday August 30-September 15
The Bathhouse Theater
7312 W. Greenlake Dr. N
Seattle, WA
The public is invited to have a word with President Harry S. Truman and Nobel laureate Albert Einstein at the Swedish Club, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 10.

A new play, “The Realm of Whispering Ghosts: If Truman Met Einstein,” imagines how a meeting between the two men might have changed history.  Following the successful opening of the play at the Bathhouse Theatre this past weekend, the Hit and Run Theater Company is offering the community its own chance to meet these two iconic figures.  Albert Einstein (or his lookalike, Arne Zaslove) will engage in conversation with Harry S Truman (Mike King, an appellate lawyer who has stood in for President Truman in numerous local events).  The discussion, which the public is invited to join, will be facilitated by Seattle attorney and legal educator John Rapp.

The conversation takes place on Tuesday, September 10, at the Swedish Club at 1920 Dexter Avenue North, Seattle 98109.  On the eve of the anniversary of 9/11, and in the midst of deliberations about a possible military strike against Syria, it is more urgent than ever to engage in discussion about how vital world-changing decisions are made.  The characters in “The Realm of Whispering Ghosts” urge the scientists and politicians to “keep talking” – and audience members linger after the show because they want to do just that.  Says director Arne Zaslove, “We have been struck by the number of people who come forward and say ‘My father was a chemist or engineer engaged in secret work during the Second World War’ or ‘My father was on a warship, waiting to land in Japan, when the bombs were dropped.’  Their stories are both moving and fascinating, and there is a hunger to talk more about what has happened in this country, and what is happening now.”

The conversation with Truman and Einstein takes place in the Three Crowns Room on the top floor of the Swedish Club, with a beautiful view of Lake Union, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 10.  Admission is free, and there will be a no-host bar and light refreshments offered.  For more information, contact John Rapp at

“The Realm of Whispering Ghosts: If Truman Met Einstein” continues its run until September 15 at the Bathhouse Theatre, 7312 W. Greenlake Drive N., Seattle 98103.  Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets: .

Claire Zaslove
(206) 285-2881
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