Written by James Engelhardt
Music and Lyrics by Neal Radice
Alleyway Theatre, Buffalo New York
Musical Drama Cast: 8M; 2W
The story of THE PERPETUAL MOTION MAN is true.
For over ten years, Johann Ernst Elias Bessler (1680-1745) confounded the scientific world with his alleged perpetual motion machines. He remains the most perplexing figure in the annals of eccentricity. If he was a fraud, his many detractors failed to expose his method of deception. If he was a genius, his few supporters failed to explain his discovery.
The musical is written from the point of view of Willem Jakob Gravesande (1688-1742), a renowned scientist whose faith in Bessler remained steadfast. Much of the action has been taken from the letters and records of the period. While fictionalizing is minimal, some imaginative leaps have been taken for the sake of theatricality. There is no record that Professor Gravesande went so far as to present a dramatization of his experiences with Bessler, but he surely lectured about them.
For the sake of those desiring to solve the mystery of Bessler’s wheels, all extant clues are provided in the script. The facts have not been manipulated in Bessler’s favor. However, every physicist knows the question of perpetual motion is beyond argument. For the playwright, the wonderful wheel of Weissensteain, indeed, works–as a central metaphor, as a reminder that the distant reach should always exceed our grasp.