Presenting the detonation of the first atomic bomb in New Mexico on July 16, 1945 as a series of Biblical parables, Trinity 5:29 will be totally bewildering to any audience member who doesn't arrive either fully versed in that fateful morning or with enough time to read the instructive program notes. Oppenheimer (Edgar Oliver) and his girlfriend Jean Tatlock (Britt Genelin) pace up and down the stage before the first detonation, arguing with President Harry S. Truman (Brian Barnhart) and General Leslie Groves (Marc Palmieri). But the actors aren't just playing these historical figures; they're also portraying them as Biblical characters. At any given point, Jean and Oppenheimer's relationship can be viewed through the filter of the story of Adam and Eve or Abraham and Isaac.
Unfortunately, at a pared down running time of less than 50 minutes, the Axis Company hasn't really given itself much time to delve into the parallels between these perennial Sunday-school favorites and the birth of modern warfare. Nor are the transitions from one Biblical story to another made very clear.
At least Genelin and Barnhart give solid performances. Genelin invests the tragic Jean with a touching pathos, while Barnhart nails the smarmy underside of Truman's down-home appeal. But Oliver is giving one of the truly bizarre performances of all time. His Oppenheimer sounds like drag icon Charles Busch doing an impression of the cartoon character Stewie from Family Guy. Instead of coming across as conflicted, he just seems like a slightly senile grandfather plaintively asking questions and generally seeming uncertain of what's going on—hardly the demeanor of a scientist whose invention still threatens to end the world.
Presented by and at Axis Company, 1 Sheridan Sq., NYC. April 9–May 9. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m.