Legacy of Light

Legacy of Light

BY KAREN ZACARÍAS
Beginning on October 16, 2009, Santa Fe’s Theaterwork (TW) will produce Karen Zacarias’s Legacy of Light (LoL) for a two-week run at the James A, Little Theater on the campus of the New Mexico School for the Deaf. LoL combines comedy and serious scientific and artistic inquiry with a splash of magical realism to create a refreshing and satisfying concoction that has received universally positive reviews of its April 2009 world premiere at the Arena Stage (which also commissioned the play). Zacarias creates two brilliant women from different eras who face the inevitable difficulties of juggling career, personal lives, and human biology while attempting to find an identity that allows them to confront and accept the mysteries of human existence. Emilie du Chatelet (1706-1749) was an Age of Enlightenment mathematician, physicist, and lover of Voltaire. In the year of her death she translated Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica along with her own commentary. This is still the standard French text for this masterpiece. Emilie’s worst fear of dying from the effects of childbirth came true three days after the birth of her daughter who also died days later. Zacarias takes this compelling historical figure and places her beside an equally brilliant fictional Princeton astrophysicist on the verge of discovering a new planet, Olivia Hastings Brown, who is contemplating hiring a surrogate, Millie, to be impregnated with her decent and enthusiastic teacher husband Peter’s semen. Olivia is wrestling with becoming a mother, though she is a stage IV ovarian cancer survivor and may not have longevity in her future. Emilie’s optimism in the face of a bleak future is played off Olivia’s humbleness and obsession of how little she really knows. As with Dark Matter which is “everywhere and unknown,” Olivia is wandering in the dark, unwittingly desiring to embrace Emilie’s soliloquy on the Conservation of Energy: “Everything changes, but nothing is lost—ever” (www.dctheaterscene.com – May 19, 2009 by Rosalind Lacy).

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