Oklahoma City — According to American Theatre magazine, Heisenberg will be one of the most produced plays this season by professional theater companies (excepting Shakespeare and A Christmas Carol). After seeing the Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre production of this Simon Stephens play, now at CitySpace, it’s a mystery to me why it will be.
Practically nothing happens in the play, and its two characters say little that’s interesting or important. Her eccentricities give Georgie Burns, a 42-year-old from New Jersey living in London, a mysterious mien, at first. But as the play goes on, her storyline becomes more confusing than engaging.
Georgie’s chance encounter with a 75-year-old Irishman named Alex Priest in a London railway station strains the audience’s credulity. Plus, the act that brings them together must have happened seconds before the play begins. Stephens leaves out most of the action between the characters and gives us only their rambling conversations.
Stacey Logan embodies Georgie with an eerie vividness. The character ranges from childlike to mildly threatening. Something’s wrong with Georgie. She acts unhinged at times.
Even with his hoary hair and beard, Ben Hall makes a young 75-year-old (and he should take that as a high compliment). Hall plays the character with a slight Irish accent, which fades in and out.
Director Ruth Charnay has staged the production with efficiency, but some sightlines in the space are bad. Scenes take place in several locations; I think projections denote where, but from my seat on the extreme right side of the theater, I couldn’t read them.
One reason this play will be widely produced is because it’s a two hander that’s relatively low cost to stage. It requires two actors, two costumes, and no more props than you could fit into the bed of a small pickup truck and have plenty of room left over. Also, some of the immense popularity and publicity around Stephens’ adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time must have lapped over onto Heisenberg. (Stephens will be one of the most produced playwrights this season, American Theatre reports.)
By the way, the play has nothing to do with German physicist Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976). At one point, Georgie refers glancingly to his uncertainty principle, but does she know whose principal it is?
Most of the drama at City Rep this season has taken place offstage. First, Hal Holbrook retired unexpectedly from the stage less than a month before City Rep was to present his Mark Twain show. Then what would have been the city’s first production of Tick, Tick . . . Boom! by Jonathan Larson (of Rent fame) was replaced by a revival of City Rep’s 2013 production of Greater Tuna, starring (again) Jonathan Beck Reed and Donald Jordan. Yikes! It’s enough to make theatergoers wonder about a City Rep uncertainty principle.