The rhetoric of our most recent presidential campaigns added a buzzword to our collective vocabulary: misogyny.

Everyone knows what that means now, and, to quote the movie "Network," "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more."

Perhaps that's what gives "Photograph 51," Anna Ziegler's award-winning drama now playing at Heartland Theatre Company, an extra punch that resonates with the audience.

Ziegler's beautiful, intelligent script gives overdue celebration to British physicist Dr. Rosalind Franklin, the woman responsible for the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA's double helix.

The complexities of Ziegler's script, in the skillful and insightful hands of director Don LaCasse, are wonderfully examined to the smallest nuance.

As the male-dominated scientific community races to unravel the mystery of life, Franklin is methodical and precise in her work, knowing that as a woman, she had very little room for error, lest she be seen as less than, in comparison to her male colleagues.

The men are befuddled by Dr. Franklin's demeanor, which is focused, and professional (how dare she?).

When she successfully captures an image of the double helix, she shares the moment with her colleague, Ray Gosling, as scientists Maurice Wilkins, James Watson and Francis Crick hover, circling like birds of prey over a fresh kill.

When tragedy strikes, the morality of the men comes into question. Will they give her the credit she deserves?

Kristi Zimmerman is perfection as Dr. Franklin, giving a full and layered portrayal of a dedicated and driven scientist who just happened to also be a beautiful woman.

Christopher Terven, as Dr. Maurice Wilkins, skillfully captures the inner conflict of a man struggling to understand a woman as he tries, in vain, to see her as an equal.

John Bowen, as James Watson, draws and walks that fine line of professional rivalry, and John Poling, as his colleague, Dr. Francis Crick, follows suit.

Nick Benson is delightful as Dr. Franklin's lab mate, Ray Gosling, and Michael Farca shines as student and frequent correspondent Don Caspar.

Completing this production, which is a must-see, is the effective set design, by Chad Lowell, and the well-executed lighting, designed by Rob Fulton.

Half of this ensemble are making their venue debut with "Photograph 51." If this caliber of performance is indicative of what is yet to come, I predict a rush on season ticket sales.

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Stiller is a freelance writer who reviews plays for The Pantagraph.


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