“Heisenberg,” the title of British playwright Simon Stephens’ two-person play at the Mark Taper Forum, poetically alludes to uncertainty and unpredictability when it comes to matters of the heart, not science. In this case Alex Priest (Denis Arndt), a 70-something butcher has a chance encounter in a London train station with Georgie Burns (Mary-Louise Parker of TV’s “Weeds”), a middle-aged American widow 33 years his junior. To say Georgie is an odd duck is putting it mildly.
“Heisenberg,” the title of British playwright Simon Stephens’ two-person play at the Mark Taper Forum, poetically alludes to uncertainty and unpredictability when it comes to matters of the heart, not science. In this case Alex Priest (Denis Arndt), a 70-something butcher has a chance encounter in a London train station with Georgie Burns (Mary-Louise Parker of TV’s “Weeds”), a middle-aged American widow 33 years his junior. To say Georgie is an odd duck is putting it mildly. She chatters on endlessly about this and that at a frenetic pace, and in the course of their conversation she discovers Alex is butcher.
He doesn’t know what to make of her, and to make matters even more peculiar, she gives him a big kiss before she scurries off. The lights go off. When they come back on we find Alex in his butcher shop defined by a long table where he stands alone. Suddenly in walks the very quirky Georgie.
As they talk, he isn’t sure if he should call the Bobbies and have her removed or listen to her intriguing babble. When he asks her what she does for a living, she says she’s an assassin, before revealing a more mundane occupation, a waitress.
As time moves on, they too have moved on to a more intimate relationship. Their blossoming friendship revitalizes the lonely life of this reclusive man who has had many personal tragedies and losses in his life. For him their friendship has been rewarding, but what about her? Who is she and what does she really want from him and from life?
As we learn more about each of them, we discover that Alex is a contemplative man, who thinks deeply when he takes his long daily walks. As for Georgie, she seems to want to find her long-lost son who has returned to New Jersey. So what does that mean for the two of them>?
At one point when Georgie is rambling on and on about herself in almost a deranged way, she tells him it is her way to turn people away, because eventually they always reject her, and this speeds up the process. But why does he stick around? What can she give him? And what will she expect from Alex? Definitely the attraction deals with the unpredictability and strangeness of their interaction. And it is this peculiar link that keeps us interested and curious about how things will finally turn out for this very unlikely duo.
Playwright Simon Stephens, who also authored the award-winning “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” coming to the Ahmanson in August, keeps us guessing and caring about these two people whose chance encounter could lead to something more.
The play is a delightful work by Simon Stephens, which began it’s theatrical life in a much smaller venue than the Taper. Unfortunately the current staging is sideways, so the actors are facing one side wall or the opposite side wall making it very difficult to hear everything. We, and our seatmates, only fully got every word when the actor speaking was facing our direction. As is the custom in spoken drama, neither actor was miked.
In this staging, however, sound reinforcement might have helped the playwright and the actors to communicate the thought- provoking and clever dialogue.
Don’t be late, particularly if you have on stage seating, because you will not be allowed to take your seat after the curtain of this intermission-less play-
“Heisenberg,” at the Mark Taper Forum, 135 North Grand Ave., L.A. ends Aug. 6. For tickets and information. go to 213-628-2772 or www.centertheatregroup.org Prices: $25-$95, subject to change. Running time is 80 minutes.
By Theda Kleinhans Reichman