Power and Light Review – Edison vs. Tesla

David Hunt Stafford and Mandy Fason in POWER AND LIGHT - Photo by Eric Keitel
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Perhaps we might call this play the “Battle of the Century” or even “The Clash of Titans.” Playwright John Strysik examines the weaknesses and strengths of genius in this fascinating story of the connection – and disconnection – between two of the leading inventors of the twentieth century, Thomas Alva Edison and Nicola Tesla. Surrounded in rich detail and exciting special effects, Theatre 40 proudly presents POWER AND LIGHT, a world premiere, directed by Jeff G. Rack.

Set between 1884 and 1943, POWER AND LIGHT details the electrifying (quite literally) story of a changing America led by such powerful minds and movers and shakers as Edison (David Hunt Stafford), Tesla (Eric Keitel), Westinghouse (Richard Large), and J.P. Morgan (John Combs). As the world approaches the twentieth century, Edison has already wowed everyone with his brilliant invention which would soon light up the country – when he meets the young and impoverished Tesla, a quiet genius whose thoughts will always rest in the centuries to come. Even though at first the two men strike an agreement to improve conditions on the ground, it soon becomes apparent that Tesla’s dreams are simply too far into the future – and, as it turns out, into the universe – to resonate with the more practical Edison. Thus is born the conflict and challenge which will characterize their dyad as each tries to get one step ahead of the other in their mutual goal of changing the world. Alliances come and go as the powerful of the era – men like George Westinghouse and J.P. Morgan – align with one and the other of the pair hoping to use their cash to finance even greater fortunes. As it turns out, Tesla’s friendship with Anne Morgan (Bailey Castle), the daughter of the hugely successful financier, may not bring Tesla’s strange ideas like wireless technology and communication with the stars to reality. 

Director Rack does an excellent job of bringing the documentary-like story to life with the able assistance of a talented cast led by Stafford and Keitel. POWER AND LIGHT breathes life into what could easily have been a dry tale about the interactions between historical figures. The overall effect was substantially aided and abetted by a production crew willing to take some chances on clever special effects to bring real power and light to the stage. Rack has offered two skills to the show, with his set design simple yet enhanced powerfully by Derrick McDaniel’s lighting, Joseph Slawinski’s sound, Michael Mullen’s costumes, and – above all – Gabrieal Griego’s projection design.

POWER AND LIGHT will intrigue audiences as it mixes history, conflict, and fleshed-out characters in a true tale about the people who changed America. This show is also highly recommended for younger audiences as it makes history fun and exciting. In fact, POWER AND LIGHT should prove to be an excellent show for the entire family (and such programs are often difficult to find). In addition, POWER AND LIGHT seems a great destination for school groups learning about American history.

POWER AND LIGHT runs through April 30, 2024, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Mondays (4/8, 4/15, 4/22, 4/29), Tuesdays (4/16, 4/20, 4/23), Wednesdays (4/17, 4/24), Fridays (3/29, 4/5), and Saturdays (3/30, 4/6, 4/13) and at 2 p.m. on Sundays (3/31, 4/7, 4/14, 4/28). Theatre 40 is located in the Mary Levin Cutler Theatre in Beverly Hills High School, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Tickets are $35. For information and reservations, call 310-364-3606 or go online.


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