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2017 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Quantum Suicide: A Talk by Professor Sophie Miller’

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You don’t have to understand quantum mechanics – or even elementary physics – to follow Quantum Suicide: A Talk by Professor Sophie Miller, the one woman show now enjoying its first Fringe production at Caos on F. However, it does help to be familiar with TED talks, the wildly popular lectures – now heard on NPR – that often mix science and entertainment to project new ideas.

Quantum Suicide: A Talk by Professor Sophie Miller. Photo courtesy of Capital Fringe.

Even if you’re not a science enthusiast, you’ll grasp the essence of Professor Miller’s dilemma. It’s the same question that was posed earlier this year in Sarah Treem’s play, The How and the Why: Is life as we know it the result of order or chaos? Is the universe a result of destiny? Or, as Einstein disdainfully put it, “a roll of the dice?”

For Dr. Miller, the answer is neither and both. In a world of multiple universes, everything – including the deaths of those we love – is transmutable.

Alexia Poe plays the role of Sophie Miller as a giant of a woman, puffed up with academic stature. For this woman, the idea of a single universe, determined by chance, is absurd.

To prove her point – that there are infinite possibilities and that death, therefore, does not exist (since there is always some alternative universe in which the dying don’t die or even get sick) – the professor uses a computer screen, volunteers from the audience, and a box of magic tricks that includes a worn volume of Shakespeare.

The computer screen offers us the silliness of Einstein, shown with his tongue sticking out, and the solemnity of people like Bohr. Volunteers add an interactive element. Audience members who step up to the stage get to bounce a ball, flip a coin, float like a proton, or pretend to be a theoretically dead cat. There is also a game of Russian roulette with a gun that may, or may not, be loaded.

Dr. Miller parses the differences between probability, predictability, and causality with a brisk, no-nonsense, approach that belies the seriousness of her subject.

While the performance is entertaining enough, the play does not really come alive until Poe addresses the question of death. Mourning her father and sister, the actor ultimately brings the personal to the theoretical. How that happens can only be revealed if you see the play yourself.

Quantum Suicide is both written and directed by Matthew Marcus, a 30 year-old University of Virginia grad who adapted the play from his own Indie film of the same name. Kyle Ringgenberg is the composer whose electronic sound makes a fitting background for a play about science and the soul. The show is a production of Reliant Theatre, in association with Nu Sass Productions.

Caos on F, for those who haven’t been there yet, is a tiny black box theatre with 27 seats perched around an even tinier stage. It’s up a steep flight of stairs just a few blocks from Gallery Place, and is a perfect venue for a capital Capital Fringe!

Running Time: 60 minutes, with no intermission.

Quantum Suicide: A Talk by Professor Sophie Miller plays through July 20, 2017 at Caos on F – 923 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, purchase them at the venue, or purchase them online.

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