As Oppenheimer, James Liebman creates a likable genius with one toe on the autistic spectrum. He’s often so inwardly focused he seems aloof; he’s stubborn when faced with change; yet he can be lively and engaged in all kinds of relationships, from military to intimate. Liebman grounds his character by bringing intense stillness to the many solo moments playwright Tom Morton-Smith gives him; we find ourselves watching closely for his smallest facial gesture.
Liebman cleverly balances Oppenheimer’s social unease, his brilliant mind and his sexual appetite.
… nowhere does that pay off more handsomely than in James Liebman’s “Oppie.” The complexity of his performance in that title role is distinguished by a kind of reticence and grace, a reluctance to shine and take center stage amid the noise — which is exactly right. He has the tall and thin demeanor of the enigmatic man he impersonates — a creature apart, sometimes cruel, with a perpetual question mark in eyes that seem always to be looking Beyond.
James Liebman is terrific as Oppenheimer. He embodies the thrill of the science. … Mr. Liebman shows us Oppenheimer’s vanity, but he also believably conveys something deeper, the fear that unless mankind sees the terrible fury of his bomb, it will be used to start another, even more terrible war. …he betrays the trust of those closest to him, and he survives. Liebman projects that strength, but he also makes Oppenheimer’s breakdown palpably alive. When he curls up in a fetal position on the floor, shaking at the horror of what he has created, you feel his pain.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Liebman’s warts-and-all star turn as Oppie is the evening’s standout, a man forced to live the remaining twenty-two years of his life with the consequences of his actions, the abandonment of friends whose political beliefs he once shared and the knowledge that he has, metaphorically speaking, dropped a loaded gun on a playground.
Liebman imbues the figure with a mournful intelligence. …it’s possible to see in (his) eyes the calculations Oppenheimer is making about the fascist threat.
Liebman does such a good job as Oppenheimer that it feels more like an incarnation than a performance; he presents both the man’s arrogance and increasing inner doubts with admirable artistry.
James has studied in New York with Wynn Handman at his studio, T. Schreiber Studio and Patsy Rodenburg whenever/wherever he can find her. He has worked with Cameron Watson and Lesly Kahn since moving out West. He is presently starring in the title role in Rogue Machine’s American Premiere of Oppenheimer by Tom Morton-Smith. Recent projects include his roles in Still Life at Rogue Machine Theatre Company, the lead in the award-winning short film The Dangle from Writer/Director Michael Ravich and a mad Russian in the web series House Rules.
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