BWW Review: HEISENBERG Intrigues at Shakespeare & Company

When I first learned about this production, its name alone presented a vague connection in my mind to some obscure STEM reference. The promotional material I received advised that: "A news story about a man I knew in my childhood haunted me," said Playwright Simon Stephens. "He was a man in his eighties in my home town and a younger woman had inveigled into his life, and he had given her his life savings. I wondered at the cruelty of that and how desperate the woman must have been. I got to wondering about what would happen if the two people affected one another. I became, at the same time, fascinated by the way in which Werner Heisenberg's quantum theories seemed to define the way in which people lived. How, unless we are seen or engaged with, we barely exist. It struck me as a metaphor for loneliness and the volatility of being human." While this provided some context, it really did not seem to give too much away. I assure you, it did not.

Even adding the following detail from Director Tina Packer doesn't give it away. "They are, to say the least, an unlikely pair. He's a 75-year-old butcher, introverted, seemingly of Irish descent, but living in London. She's a forty-something American, excessively extroverted, perhaps a social worker with a missing son. They meet on a park bench. By chance, they affect each other. They change each other's lives. [Playwright] Simon Stephens (THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME) is a master of what can't be seen, but what is sensed, the effect of random events upon the lives of human beings or are they not random?".

BWW Review: HEISENBERG Intrigues at Shakespeare & Company

HEISENBERG is exemplary of the phrase: "the play's the thing". The lights come up and bam, it's happening. Georgie Burns and Alex Priest are there before us and we seem to have arrived mid-interaction. Without introduction, lead-in, or warmup, we find ourselves almost challenged to catch-up. Tamara Hickey's energy is BWW Review: HEISENBERG Intrigues at Shakespeare & Companyboundless as she flails about rapidly jumping from one personality to another. The mania she displays as she frenetically fills all available air and space with dialogue and movement suggests that something about what we are watching is most certainly, not quite right. The stark contrast to Malcom Ingram's stoic demeanor as Alex adds to the mystique and deepens the sense of intrigue. BWW Review: HEISENBERG Intrigues at Shakespeare & CompanyHis simple demeanor is perhaps best evidenced when he says of flying: "Free food, drinks, and those little socks ... only an idiot wouldn't be entertained".

Scene after scene during the 90-minute production additional layers and facts are exposed that we think are helping to connect the dots as to who these characters are, and why they do what they do. But that would be too simple and straight-forward. Particularly for a play even remotely related to The Heisenberg uncertainty principle which states that it is impossible to know simultaneously the exact position and momentum of a particle. That is, the more exactly the position is determined, the less known about the momentum, and vice versa. This principle is not a statement about the limits of technology, but a fundamental limit on what can be known about a particle at any given moment. Uncertainty arises because the act of measuring affects the object being measured. The only way to measure the position of something is using light, but, on the sub-atomic scale, the interaction of the light with the object inevitably changes the object's position and its direction of travel.

BWW Review: HEISENBERG Intrigues at Shakespeare & Company

An example of the seemingly random and disconnected elements in this multi-faceted work is Alex, explaining the appeal of a Bach sonata to Georgie. He tells her the reason that great music surprises us is that "it doesn't exist in the notes" but "in the spaces between the notes."

If you are unnerved by dangling participles, musical compositions with un-resolved chords, or you like a play to flow logically along an expected rhythm or path and tie-up loose ends; HEISENBERG may leave you unfulfilled. Those who enjoy intrigue, the unconventional, and a few wait-what moments will likely find it more of a satisfying meal.

The creative team includes Juliana von Haubrich (Set Design), Dan Kotlowitz (Lighting Design), Charlotte Palmer-Lane (Costume Design), Amy Altadonna (Sound Design), and Hope Rose Kelly (Stage Manager). HEISENBERG is sponsored by Eleanor Y. Lord and Margaret H. Wheeler and continues at Shakespeare and Company's Tina Packer Playhouse in Lenox, MA through September 2nd.

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From This Author Marc Savitt

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