BWW Review: HEISENBERG at Signature Theatre

BWW Review: HEISENBERG at Signature Theatre

Forgive the pun, but I'm uncertain as to how to review Signature Theatre's latest production, "Heisenberg."

For those familiar with the German physicist, Werner Heisenberg, and his uncertainty principle - or with other plays and literature that reference it - this play is, in short, confusing. The director's note in the program hints that the play isn't as invested in displaying uncertainty as the title suggests, but even that note is only truly revealing after you've seen the show. If you're expecting to see a show that explores the different possibilities that could come out of the chance encounter at the center of the play, or perhaps a portrayal of how one cannot get to know a person without altering that person through the course of their interactions, or some other deep, cerebral application of the physics principle to the art, you will be sorely disappointed.

Which is a shame, because the play that Signature presents is actually a good one. "Heisenberg" is an endearing and endearingly awkward love story between two people, who find each other on a train platform in London, share their stories and themselves, and ultimately form a bond that goes far deeper than either anticipated. Rachel Zampelli is delightful as the rambling, blunt, and unexpectedly charming Georgie Burns. Michael Russotto's stoic and sardonic Alex Priest is her perfect foil; while Georgie's babbles are humorous, it's Alex's silent responses that round out the humor and make the show enjoyable. Pamela Weiner's set pieces are an absolute highlight - the simple pieces are incredibly versatile, and the actors skillfully carry over the plot while wordlessly (though, smartly, not silently) changing over the pieces between scenes.

But for its skillful presentation, "Heisenberg" is lacking, well, the Heisenberg. Had this simply been a show about two people and their relationship, I probably would have enjoyed it immensely. But the expectation set by the title, promotional materials, and director's note left me distracted through the performance. I felt as though I'd accidentally entered the wrong theatre. Everything I knew about the show beforehand primed me to expect a cerebral element that never came; I found myself scrutinizing dialogue, waiting for the big revelation that would tie in uncertainty, and didn't fully appreciate the show because of that. And yes, that could potentially be an interpretation, but I feel that's a rabbit hole that relies far too much on the audience members' outside knowledge than any show should anticipate. Likewise, I wondered if Georgie's opening falsehoods were intended to make the audience question the sincerity of her other statements, but since she confesses almost immediately and never again admits to lying, it never felt that was the intention either. The show does include a few interludes of Georgie's philosophical musings, but since they are rare and never fully tie to the rest of the show, they feel more out of place than fulfilling.

"I don't feel - I [explicative] think," Alex declares at one point. The problem with "Heisenberg," it seems, is that the show insists that it thinks, when it really just feels.

"Heisenberg" runs at the Signature Theatre in Shirlington through November 18th.

Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre, featuring Rachel Zampelli and Michael Russotto.

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From This Author Rachael Goldberg

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