That un­cer­tain feel­ing

Heisen­berg

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Jen­nifer Levin I The New Mex­i­can

The un­cer­tainty prin­ci­ple is one of the most fa­mous (and prob­a­bly mis­un­der­stood) ideas in physics,” Alok Jha wrote in a 2013 ar­ti­cle in The Guardian. “It tells us that there is a fuzzi­ness in na­ture, a fun­da­men­tal limit to what we can know about the be­hav­ior of quan­tum par­ti­cles and, there­fore, the small­est scales of na­ture. Of these scales, the most we can hope for is to cal­cu­late prob­a­bil­i­ties for where things are and how they will be­have.” For those prone to in­ter­pret­ing sci­en­tific the­o­ries in emo­tional terms, Heisen­berg’s un­cer­tainty prin­ci­ple is rife with pos­si­bil­ity, easy to ap­ply to the va­garies of hu­man in­ter­ac­tion, ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships, and even the idea of dra­matic struc­ture. Play­wright Si­mon Stephens toys with the blurry line be­tween sci­ence and feel­ings in Heisen­berg, his two-per­son, May-De­cem­ber meet-cute play in which the Ger­man physi­cist is never men­tioned by name.

Heisen­berg opened on Broad­way in 2016 at the Sa­muel J. Friedman The­atre, star­ring Mary-Louise Parker as the ir­re­press­ible Ge­orgie and De­nis Arndt as the more ret­i­cent Alex. We first see them in a train sta­tion just af­ter Ge­orgie has kissed Alex — who is a stranger to her — on the back of his neck. The nar­ra­tive moves along on the mo­men­tum of their ban­ter, much of which is very funny in its awk­ward­ness, but where it is go­ing is tough to pre­dict. Arndt, a ca­reer ac­tor who made his Broad­way de­but as Alex at age seventy-seven, was nom­i­nated for a Tony Award for his per­for­mance. He and Parker, who reprised the roles they played in the Man­hat­tan The­atre Club’s well-re­ceived 2015 off-Broad­way pro­duc­tion of the play, had the lux­ury of de­vel­op­ing their per­for­mances over a long pe­riod of time.

Thirty-four years ago, Arndt played Claudius in an Ore­gon Shake­speare Fes­ti­val pro­duc­tion of Ham­let that was di­rected by Robert Benedetti. Benedetti, who

has worked as a tele­vi­sion and film pro­ducer, in re­gional theater, and in theater ed­u­ca­tion, in­clud­ing as chair­man of the act­ing pro­gram at Yale Drama School, now lives in Santa Fe and runs New Mex­ico Ac­tors Lab. He di­rects Heisen­berg, star­ring De­bri­anna Mansini as Ge­orgie and Jonathan Richards as Alex, open­ing Thurs­day, July 13, at Teatro Paraguas Stu­dios.

Benedetti was ini­tially at­tracted to Heisen­berg be­cause of Arndt’s suc­cess with it, and he had en­joyed Stephens’ Tony Award-win­ning adap­ta­tion of Mark Had­don’s novel The Cu­ri­ous In­ci­dent of the Dog in the Night-Time .As in Night-Time, Heisen­berg fea­tures char­ac­ters who strug­gle with ap­pro­pri­ate so­cial in­ter­ac­tion. Ge­orgie, a forty-some­thing Amer­i­can woman living in Eng­land, tends to re­veal too much, while Alex is a quiet sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian butcher who never mar­ried. “I was re­ally struck by what a beau­ti­ful piece of writ­ing it is — sim­ple but lay­ered — and what it has to say about the un­cer­tainty of re­la­tion­ships,” Benedetti said. “If you know where you are, you don’t know where you’re go­ing, and if you know where you’re go­ing then you don’t know where you are. You can’t do both. And we’re not even cer­tain where we are be­cause Ge­orgie is a com­pul­sive liar — but not in a mean way.”

“I’ve known peo­ple like her in my life,” Mansini said. “She’s not ma­li­cious. She’s re­ally smart, but she has no fil­ter. She says right up front that she has a com­plete in­abil­ity to con­trol her own lan­guage. She’s a nonedited, very gen­uine per­son, which is an in­ter­est­ing challenge as an ac­tor.”

Ge­orgie curses con­stantly. It is never cer­tain just when she will re­veal that the last thing she said was a lie. She could be a con woman, or men­tally ill, or just a bit un­teth­ered. We soon learn she has a son in New Jer­sey who re­fuses to talk to her. This es­trange­ment ob­vi­ously hurts her, though Stephens makes it easy to see how Ge­orgie’s tran­si­tory re­la­tion­ship with re­al­ity could alien­ate an adult child. Alex, who has more life ex­pe­ri­ence than Ge­orgie or her son, is sur­prised by her time and again — and smit­ten. She asks him for an out­ra­geous amount of money, in­vades his pri­vacy, and gen­er­ally acts like a steam­roller, yet her wild charm be­guiles him. And per­haps an ad­ven­ture is what Alex needs. There is a screw­ball edge to Heisen­berg, and the re­la­tion­ship de­picted has been com­pared to the one be­tween Katharine Hep­burn as a flighty heiress and Cary Grant as a stu­dious pa­le­on­tol­o­gist in the 1938 film Bring­ing Up Baby. But the way Ge­orgie un­does Alex, and how he holds fast to his bound­aries even while go­ing along with the things she wants, is more nu­anced than a sim­ple Hol­ly­wood re­al­iza­tion that op­po­sites at­tract.

I was re­ally struck by what a beau­ti­ful piece of writ­ing it is — sim­ple but lay­ered — and what it has to say about the un­cer­tainty of re­la­tion­ships. — direc­tor Robert Benedetti

“Alex gets very up­set when he re­al­izes Ge­orgie might have been, in a sense, scam­ming him,” Benedetti said. “And she is amazed when he shows up with the money — not ex­pect­ing that he would, and not even that ea­ger to take it at first. I find the end­ing of the play enor­mously touch­ing. I al­ways tear up. It sneaks up on me and I find my­self start­ing to cry. It’s love that fi­nally be­comes the bea­con that lets us know where we’re go­ing.”

de­tails

Heisen­berg, pre­sented by New Mex­ico Ac­tors Lab Thurs­day, July 13, 7:30 p.m.; per­for­mances con­tinue at 7:30 p.m. Wed­nes­days–Satur­days, 2 p.m. Sun­days, through July 30 Teatro Paraguas Stu­dios, 3205 Calle Marie, 505-424-1601

$10 open­ing night, then $20 (dis­counts avail­able), pay-what-you-wish Wed­nes­days; www. nmac­torslab.com

Op­po­site page, De­bri­anna Mansini and Jonathan Richards, photo Robert Benedetti

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