Begins in the mid-1950s at the institute in Rangeley, Maine, which the famed scientific innovator Wilhelm Reich has established after fleeing from Hitler's Germany. He is visited by a Dr. Andre, from the Sigmund Freud Archives, who wants to interview him about his early association—and later falling out—with the master. As their conversation progresses it becomes apparent that Dr. Andre has also begun to harbor doubts about many of Freud's theories but his request to stay on at Rangeley and work with Reich is less than enthusiastically received—for reasons which become apparent as the action of the play, through flashbacks, explores the development, and disintegration, of Reich's singular career. We learn of his early apprenticeship under Freud, and of his gradual disagreement with many of the older man's concepts; and of his years in Vienna and Berlin, when his radical theories about primal energy and the liberating force of the human orgasm first brought him into conflict with the medical/scientific establishment. His initial acceptance, and later rejection, of communism is also explored, as is his controversial use of his "orgone box" to treat cancer patients, a practice which, eventually, results in his trial and imprisonment by the United States Government. As the play ends Reich, fatally broken and slipping into paranoia, is visited in his penitentiary cell by spectres from his past, including President Eisenhower and, in particular, Sigmund Freud, who, at last, concedes Reich's brilliance, but also cautions him that radical thought will continue to be resisted as long as political and economic power remains in the hands of the uninspired and the ill informed—and that a great man's closest disciples, as they seek progressively to make their own voices heard, will invariably become his most dangerous and destructive detractors.
An absorbing and strikingly original work which deals with the life and legacy of the controversial psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich, whose radical theories brought him into conflict with the scientific community of his time and with society in general. Produced by Boston's widely respected American Repertory Theatre, the play employs innovative theatrical techniques and engrossing discourse to capture the full sweep of Reich's meteoric rise to prominence—and his equally dramatic downfall.