The battle between art and science begins (its US run)

“Science-in-fiction” novelist/chemist Carl Djerassi’s play Phallacy marks its American premiere this month, hosted by Redshift Productions. The play’s teaser? “The battle between art and science begins.”

If I were in NYC I’d definitely go see this, although I’m not sure I ought to. Since reading Allegra Goodman’s Intuition last year, I’ve realized that portrayals of backbiting, self-absorbed academia leave me shuddering, even when they’re hilariously spot-on. It’s been a few years since grad school, but I’m still hypersensitive. (Will it ever go away?)
Like Intuition, Phallacy seems to be as much about the lead characters’ sex lives as their science. According to Jennifer Rohn’s review of the 2005 London production of Phallacy,

Still, it struck me that Otto, in being more preoccupied with getting into Emma’s pants than with analyzing Renaissance alloys, was quite reminiscent of many younger postdocs today, to whom science is an enjoyable job but not necessarily the be-all and end-all of existence. In this respect, he is probably the most post-modern scientist character that Djerassi has yet produced.

I hope that’s true (that Otto enjoys science – whether or not he gets into Emma’s pants). I’ve seen too many postdocs and graduate students who did not enjoy it, yet kept at it, as if science were a dismal relationship preferable only to the distasteful revelations of a break-up. Djerassi at least seems to have a sense of humor about the whole endeavor. If anyone does go see Phallacy, let me know how you liked it.

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