Stoppard’s play Hapgood now at the Lantern Theater

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Czech-born Sir Tom Stoppard’s 1988 play, Hapgood, is now onstage at the Lantern Theater until October 14. It is the play’s Philadelphia premiere.


One of the greatest living playwrights writing in the English language, Stoppard may be best known for his screenplays for Shakespeare in Love and Brazil. Among his better-known works for the stage are The Real Inspector Hound, Jumpers, Travesties, The Real Thing, and the 2002 trilogy, The Coast of Utopia. He has also written dozens of works for radio. Hapgood is rarely performed, and its first star-studded cast did little to help it being a critical failure in London in 1988. Its revised version did better in New York in 1994 where it ran for five months.  Hapgood was recently revived in 2015 for a London run.


Hapgood apparently baffled its audiences when first presented. Critics claimed that the plot was cumbersome and dealt too much with quantum physics, espionage, a femme fatale superwoman and super spy named Hapgood, her son, and the men who love her. Seeing it today, anyone under the age of 30 would be baffled as well since the plot was timely for 1988 as it dealt with the USSR, the Cold War, the SDI (President Reagan’s Star Wars defense program), and mysterious communications devices which aren’t cell phones. This is why the Lantern’s resident dramaturg Meghan Winch was given several pages in the program to write concisely and cogently about the Cold War, particle physics, matter and antimatter, and espionage to help the audience to better understand the plot.  Similarly, both Charles McMahon and director Peter DeLaurier had their own pages for commentary in the program.


The actors in Hapgood on opening night were all seasoned professionals with years of stage experience. This including the boy, Joe, played this evening by Charles LaMonaca, who was a stage natural. As the super-efficient, super-brainy, and super-intimidating Hapgood, McKenna Kerrigan presented a believable characterization which was part James Bond, part Judi Dench, and part Helen Mirren. Christopher Patrick Mullen was Blair, a British super spy and totally smitten with Hapgood. He had the best dry one-liners in the play. Kirk Wendell Brown was Wates, the generally disliked American agent who could be considered as being occasionally hostile or friendly to Hapgood and Blair. William Zielinski was Kerner, the Soviet/British quantum physics genius who also happened to be a double agent and involved in several other plot twists. His Dr. Kerner was authentic, engaging, and involved, whether discussing prolix diatribes of particle physics or cracking bilingual puns.  Damon Bonetti’s Ridley was a riddle of nonchalance, street-smarts, intelligence, gullibility, naivete, sexiness, and danger. David Pica was a wonderfully humorous Merryweather, and Trevor William Faye was Maggs, Hapgood’s male secretary who would have stripped off his clothes in a second if his boss required it of him.  Adam Phelan, billed as a Russian, played several supporting roles.  Will Zielinski, William’s son, would alternate in playing the role of Joe.


Hapgood is a challenging play with much to its credit. It is sly, occasionally amusing, often touching, sometimes disturbing, occasionally opaque, and there is a gruesome murder. It is great theater, and you will be the richer for having seen it.


Hapgood is a presentation by the Lantern Theater Company at St. Stephen’s Theater, 10th and Ludlow Streets, Philadelphia, until October 14. For more information, visit .



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