The science of love: local theater group performs play set at Fermilab

Scientist and intern fall in love in a play set at Fermilab. Photo courtesy of Village Theatre Guild

Lisa Dolnics says she wasn’t thrilled at first with the idea of “now then again,” a romantic play set in the halls of Fermilab. But once she read it, she fell in love, much like the play’s two protagonists. She enjoyed it so much, in fact, that she asked to direct it. Dolnics’ production of “now then again” with the Village Theatre Guild of Glen Ellyn opens on Friday, May 23.

What was it about this story that captivated Dolnics? The play, written by Penny Penniston, traces the love story between a Fermilab physicist and an intern. The story moves forward and backward in time, incorporating quantum physics concepts along with warm-hearted humor. While the science is complex, Dolnics said, the tale remains straightforward.

“It’s about how people find each other, about being in the right place at the right time,” she said.

Penniston’s play premiered in 1999 in Chicago and won the Joseph Jefferson Award as an outstanding new work in Chicago theater for the 1999-2000 season. On Sept. 16, 2000, it was performed at Fermilab and met with accolades from scientists. Leon Lederman, Fermilab’s second director, called it “a very provocative and surprising play about time, science fantasy, the portrayal of characters, and the eternals of love, chance and humor.”

When developing the play, Penniston reached out to Fermilab and received assistance from Judy Jackson, former head of the Office of Public Affairs, and Morris Binkley, a physicist on the CDF experiment.

Dolnics said a seven-member committee read more than 100 plays when selecting the Guild’s current season, and “now then again” stood out. Several cast members have science backgrounds, including Terry Wehrman, who plays Henry, the male lead. The play’s subject matter opened up many interesting discussions during rehearsals, Dolnics said.

But for the audience, she said, it will be the love story that resonates.

“I think people will understand it,” she said. “It’s about a relationship, about finding the right person.”

Andre Salles

The Village Theatre Guild is now in its 51st year. Its plays are performed in a one-room theater that was once a schoolhouse and seats about 60. Performances of “now then again” will continue through June 14.