The forty-two-year-old Georgie Burns (Mary Louise-Parker) approaches the seventy-five-year-old Alex Priest (Denis Arndt) in the St. Pancras Train Station. In that aggressively confessional manner that is typical of some Americans, she immediately unloads on him, forcing an intimacy that has not yet been earned. And in that icily reserved manner that is typical of some Englishmen, Alex resists. “In the end I do know that people will reject me so I try to behave in a way that just speeds the whole process up,” she tells him long after this characteristic has become apparent to the entire audience.
Still, while Georgie is broke and broken, compulsively dishonest, and largely unconcerned with the discomfort she creates, she offers companionship to this septuagenarian butcher with a penchant for crying and an astonishingly eclectic taste in music. When he can get a word in, she allows him the opportunity to wax poetical about the seams in the animals he slaughters or the love he lost half a century before.
Simon Stephens’ Heisenberg, likely named after the uncertain relationship in which these two find themselves, is a gentle and unassuming play, one whose eighty minutes pass without much surprise but without much to dissatisfy, either. Occasionally, Georgie plays like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl—the spontaneous, romantic comedy girlfriend whose sole purpose is to help her man grow and mature—and Ms. Louise-Parker’s chirpy performance does little to bring more substance to the part. Mr. Ardnt, however, is wonderfully understated, allowing the scenes to wash over Alex as he silently calculates the effect they will have on his stunted emotional life.
In their first conversation, Georgie laments, “I don’t think I’ve been to enough places in my life where things could happen to you that are completely unpredictable and which could honestly properly just kill you.” While Heisenberg doesn’t quite take us to one of these places, it is a pleasure to watch it take its characters there.
Heisenberg runs through December 11th at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. 254 W. 54th Street New York, NY. 1 hour 20 minutes. No intermission.