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BWW Review: HEISENBERG at DE Theatre Company

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BWW Review: HEISENBERG at DE Theatre Company

May December relationships are fraught with peril. We are now informed they function in theoretical physics and the space between notes of music.

The title of the play evokes Werner Heisenberg's 1927 uncertainty principle dictating that if you precisely measure the position of something, then you cannot precisely measure its movement. My home library is painfully lacking in volumes on theoretical physics, so I turned to the work of another British playwright, Michael Frayn. Heisenberg appears as a character in Frayn's "Copenhagen," (staged years ago at DTC) a drama that draws parallels between the uncertainty of particles and the uncertainty of thoughts. In a postscript, Frayn explains that "the more precisely you measure one variable ... the less precise your measurement of the related variable can be." Furthermore, in attempting to ascertain speed or position, you stop watching the object itself - and thus lose sight of it.

Or, as garrulous Georgie,(DTC favorite Karen Peakes) the American ex pat of the play puts it: "There's no possible way of telling where a thing is going, and how fast it is going."

In this way, physics becomes a metaphor for the vagaries of existence, for the uncertainty and lack of predictability of relationships. Not content with overlaying science into live theatre, playwright Simon Stephens also weaves Bach and the nature of music into the relationship cauldron. This is done in order to focus on his existential and imperative interest, that of human behavior. Heady stuff. Perhaps by half. It looks like an attempt to give intellectual wings to a slight, sometimes sweet romance.

Going in, my problem with the play is that it begins with an act so improbable - that a much younger woman would kiss an early '70's male stranger on the nape of the neck when she espeies him seated on a bench. Alex (Artistic Director Bud Martin) is the recipient. Alex and I are around the same age. I have personally never been so gifted with a similar conscious smooch and am miffed. Therefore the suspension of disbelief required for their developing relationship is enormous.

Staged with the audience seated on three sides on the stage in great intimacy with the actors. The set is furnished only with a couple of chairs and tables, "Heisenberg" can seem both placeless and rootless and a trifle word salady in the early going. As the spare set (Dirk Durossette) starkly reminds us, the only realism that matters here is the inner terrain of the characters. Georgie is the manipulator; part grifter, part lonely heart. She most definitely wants something from Alex. He, on the other hand, is docile, exceedingly more nuanced and agreeable to let the dynamic come to him. The suspense stems from her discovering, along with Alex, what exactly this relationship might become and where it might end. Their experience deepens as the actors probe their characters' contradictory hearts. Bach's observation of music (i.e. relationships) is the space between the notes.

Through 25 February DelawareTheatre.org 302.594.1100

Next Up: DTC fundraiser PLAY A PART - March 3

ELLA: first lady of song - April 18-May 13 Freda Payne sings Ella


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