Heisenberg

Melinda Schupmann Reviews - Theater
Print

In collaboration with Ventura's Rubicon Theatre, Laguna Playhouse presents a near seminal exploration of what can happen when events transpire in a seemingly random set of circumstances with uncertainty at their core. Playwright Simon Stephens' inventive application of Werner Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle to the lives of two people makes for great theater and leads audiences to ponder their current assumptions long after the play is over.

 

For the uninitiated, Heisenberg's theory of physics in its simplest terms is that it is impossible to determine accurately both the position and the direction and speed of a particle at the same instant. When applied to the human condition in this production, it takes unpredictability to a fascinating level.

 

Alex Priest (Joe Spano) is sitting quietly in a London train station listening to music when American Georgie Burns (Faline England) walks by and kisses him on the neck. We are led to believe that it is an impulsive act, and Georgie begins a long, slightly profane assault on Alex's privacy that upends the predictability of his life. Beyond intruding on his solitude at the station, she searches him out at home and continues her ambush, completely disarming him.

He is a butcher, nearly double her age, with a life full of disappointments and a future that looks increasingly sterile as his butcher shop is failing. She is, at times, near manic and lies about nearly every aspect of her life. This, of course, in theater leads to sex and a romantic relationship that defies logic but is as life affirming as one might want in ninety minutes of invigorating dialogue and near perfect acting.

Unlikely hardly describes the unfolding events of the story. Georgie is a grifter and con artist who is looking for a pigeon to give her money to go to New York and find her old boyfriend. Alex becomes willing to fund that endeavor. They surprisingly go together and start the search. No boyfriend, but they fall in love. Sounds simple, but Stephens' abilities to plumb the human condition take the story beyond sit-com and lead to examining a truly complex pair of people who are at once recognizable and mysterious.

Director Katherine Farmer understands them well and lets them find the trajectory that propels the story forward. Pauses are profound and stage business disappears as the audience becomes more and more involved in discovery. There is much humor in the journey.

Spano's transformation from awkward recluse with no seeming relationships of family or friendship to a fully engaged adventurer is inspired. When paired with England's spontaneous quirkiness and vulnerability, their portrayals are exhilarating.

The rebirth of these two individuals challenges theories about how people behave when paired in a seemingly random way. Though Stephens ends the play with closure, his gift to the audience is that you are left to ponder what might really happen next for these two as their lives play out.

Closes April 14.