by Jacob Berkowitz
54 min / G / Play / Drama
Entangled offers a rare opportunity at the Fringe to see performances by two excellent well-established Ottawa actors—Paul Rainville and David Frisch. Moreover, they’re in a well-written play about two of the intellectual giants of the 20th century—the Nobel-winning quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli and the co-founder (with Sigmund Freud) of psychoanalysis, Carl Jung.
Pauli was Jung’s patient for the better part of 30 years. Pauli (David Frisch) wanted to understand his troubled inner self. Jung’s main tools were word association and dream analysis. Jung (Paul Rainville) published hundreds of Pauli’s dreams, using them to buttress his theories of the mind. Pauli eventually terminated the relationship. Now on his deathbed, Pauli feverishly calls out for Jung. Jung does not come, but Pauli hallucinates a final, fraught conversation with him. What we learn about the two men in this brilliant duel of words is fascinating!
“I sincerely hope that Entangled has a life after this Fringe.”
There are dashes of quantum physics when Pauli explains how he deduced the existence of the neutrino, a particle with (almost) no mass and no electrical charge. Pauli dreams several times of the number “137”. The ratio “1/137” was an important constant in physics. The number “137” also has the Kabbalistic meaning of either “God” or “wisdom”. He complains that his first wife left him “after only a year, not for a physicist but for a lowly f…ing chemist!”.This got a laugh from the audience. Pauli glories in the intellectual excitement of discovering principles of quantum physics with Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. He complains that one of his pupils, Robert Oppenheimer, turned to the “dark side” in leading the creation of the atom bomb. But some of this sounds like sour grapes, since Pauli was never invited to work at Los Alamos.
We learn quite a bit about Jung, too. He says that “talking with the dead is a tradition in my family.” When Jung was a child, his grandfather chatted with his deceased grandmother every evening, with her seated in an ornate armchair. Jung echoes Hamlet’s “Words, words, words”; words are Jung’s beloved tools. Like Pauli, Jung lacks self-knowledge. He asserts that his presence as a psychologist has no effect on the patient. Pauli shoots back, “Just your presence confirmed that what they felt and dreamed mattered!” Pauli seems to evoke the spirit of Heisenberg when he says this.
In the end, what Pauli says is equally applicable to Jung: “We came to believe the conceit that we could explain the world.”
I sincerely hope that Entangled has a life after this Fringe. This rich, fascinating play deserves a wide audience. A magnificent piece of theatre and of history!
Entangled by Jacob Berkowitz is playing at LabO (10 Daly Ave) until Sunday June 23, 2019. Tickets cost $12 online (plus a $2 processing fee) and at the door. Visit ottawafringe.com for the schedule and box office info. Read more reviews at apt613.ca/fringe.