A funny and moving portrait of the unrequited life of Rosalind Franklin, one of the great female scientists of the twentieth century, and her fervid drive to map the contours of the DNA molecule. A chorus of physicists relives the chase, revealing the unsung achievements of this trail-blazing, fiercely independent woman. A play about ambition, isolation, and the race for greatness.
"Among the many virtues of Anna Ziegler's…satisfying PHOTOGRAPH 51 is the refusal to soften the woman at its center, the British scientist Rosalind Franklin, by making her anything other than formidably, even self-sabotagingly, intelligent…[The play] offers multiple insights into the sad and honorable secrets of one particular life." —NY Times. "What playwright Anna Ziegler has achieved in her intriguing portrait of the British scientist Rosalind Franklin is a remarkable balance of scientific subject matter and theatrical storytelling…a play that glows with intelligence and humanity. This is a complex story filled with complex characters that Ziegler tells with clarity and economy. It's a pleasure to be in the presence of such assured writing. She gives full weight to Franklin's achievement without allowing the play to become a feminist tract or turning Franklin's thieving male cohorts and competitors into dyed-in-the-wool villains. This tale of a lone, wondrous woman amidst a casual conspiracy of men makes for compelling theater…Dr. Rosalind Franklin deserves greater fame, just as this play about her deserves a wider audience." —BackStage. "[A] smartly crafted history play…[The script is] brisk and knowing…steadily entertaining…and the play feels like it's constantly on the move…The reflections that gradually color PHOTOGRAPH 51 deal with the eternal human mystery of why people act as they do—the very stuff of drama, of course, and a far less solvable riddle than that of the DNA structure these characters stalk." —Washington Post. "The play…honors Franklin's achievements and rues her relative obscurity, but it also returns to her the ambiguities and complexities that a real human being deserves…The play presents Franklin as a prickly and strong-willed woman who was sabotaged by her own personality: Distrustful of her colleagues and aware of her outsider status as a Jewish woman, she refused to collaborate with Watson and Crick…If she had been willing to fraternize with the other scientists, could she have reached the double helix first? On the other hand, would a woman with a more accommodating spirit have gotten as far as Franklin did? PHOTOGRAPH 51 does Franklin the honor of raising these questions, but not trying to answer them." —Discover. "Who knew science could make for such terrific theatre?" —New Scientist.