BWW Review: Expect the Unexpected in Repertory Theatre St. Louis' Wonderful HEISENBERG
Life lurches along in unexpected directions for most of us, and that's what makes playwright Simon Stephens' HEISENBERG so identifiable. There actually is a "Heisenberg Principle", which says: "it is impossible to measure the position and velocity of a particle at the same time." So, we're never able to ascertain where they are or where they are going at any given time. A lot of my friends are like that. Which brings us to The Repertory Theatre St. Louis's wonderful production of this play, which is taking place in the Studio Theatre of the Loretto-Hilton. This is the perfect venue for it, since it allows us to eavesdrop on the odd and intimate encounters of two very unlikely companions. It all comes off very spontaneous in execution, which is certainly a credit to the two compelling performers (Joneal Joplin and Susan Louise O'Connor), as well as sparkling direction of Steven Woolf. This is, again, a real must-see work.
When Georgie impulsively kisses the back of an older gentleman's neck, a series of encounters are set in motion that provide revelations that are wholly unexpected. Alex Priest is taken aback by the kiss, which we never see, but the incredibly chatty Georgie Burns makes a vivid impression. When she later visits him in his butcher shop things seem a bit dicey at first, and maybe there's cause for alarm, but a relationship begins to develop between this seventy-five year old man and a forty-two year old woman. And, I can only say there are some twists and turns that occur. But, there's a genuine warmth that grows between the pair that makes this 75-minute piece shine.
Susan Louise O'Connor is truly splendid as Georgie, channeling a nervous energy that enhances the unpredictable dialog she delivers. You're never quite sure what the truth is, and what it isn't. But her absolute vulnerability gives her portrayal a nakedness that makes you care deeply about her. Joneal Joplin is terrific as the initially stoic Alex, taken off-guard by Georgie, and curious why any attention should come his way in the first place. He leads a very quiet life, after all. But there's a depth of character to Alex That Joplin brings out in ways that are surprising and appealing. The interplay between the pair is an enhanced reality, of course, but it mirrors the way that conversations can sometimes go off the rails, only to right themselves again.
Steven Woolf directs, and does a beautiful job of guiding these two performers through this remarkable play. Scenic designers Peter and Margery Spack bring their artistic talents to a fairly simple staging, providing rings above the performers that intersect just as their lives are keen to do. Nice, subtle lighting by Nathan W. Scheuer ensures the mood, and appropriate character costumes by Marci Franklin help to ground the play. Rusty Wandall's sound design adds fitting touches throughout.
The Repetory Theatre St. Louis has given us another minor gem in their Studio Theatre. These pieces are always intriguing, and often provide plenty of food for talk and discussion. HEISENBERG is a touching work that constantly has you guessing which direction it will take. Go see it through November 12, 2017.
Photo credit: Jon Gitchoff