Susan Granger’s review of “Heisenberg” (Manhattan Theatre Club/Samuel J. Friedman Theatre: 10/16)
After stunning audiences with 2015’s Tony-winning adaptation of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” British playwright Simon Stephens is back with this two-hander about a disparate couple who meet in a London train station.
The title, subtly referring to German physicist Werner Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle” in quantum physics, reflects the randomness of their acquaintance.
Georgie Burns (Mary-Louise Parker) is a loquacious, profane, 42 year-old free-spirit who latches onto imperturbable, 75 year-old Alex Priest (Denis Arndt), an uptight, antisocial butcher.
After that impetuous first encounter, Georgie unexpectedly shows up at Alex’s butcher shop, determined to develop a sexual relationship with him. Which happens shortly afterward.
“Do you find me exhausting but captivating?” she inquires. The answer is obviously, “Yes.”
As their backstories are revealed, we learn that Georgie, an American, has an estranged son, who seems to have taken off for New Jersey, where the final segment of the drama takes place.
Years ago, in an interview, Mary-Louise Parker, who often plays loud, talkative women, said, “I don’t really ever think about whether or not I like the characters I’m playing. I’m more into the minutiae of their behavior or what they’re doing in a certain scene.”
Which explains how Parker overcomes Georgie’s volatile, inherently annoying demeanor to make this role captivating, particularly in contrast with Arndt’s reclusive Irish bachelor, who lives in a large house, holding imaginary conversations with his sister who died when he was a child.
Mark Brokaw’s astute direction is enhanced by Mark Wendland’s minimalist set, Austin R. Smith’s lighting, David Van Tiegham’s sound and Michael Krass’s costumes.
In a bizarre configuration, some audience members are seated in bleachers on-stage, leaving only a narrow strip on which the actors emote. The usher told me that those seats are deeply discounted but, if you’re concerned about being ‘on display’ for 80 minutes with no intermission, it might be wise to ask before purchasing.