THEATER REVIEW: “Heisenberg” @ Shakespeare & Company [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Roseann Cane
Photograph by Daniel Rader
In 1927 the German physicist Werner Heisenberg posited what is often referred to as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: it is not possible to measure simultaneously the position and the velocity of an object, even in theory. Playwright Simon Stephens has said that this quantum theory seems to define the way in which people live: unless we are seen by or engaged with other people, we barely exist.
The setup of Stephens’ play Heisenberg – currently at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox – is a familiar one: an extroverted, eccentric woman meets cute with an older, introverted, conventional man; they clash, sparks fly, and they walk into the sunset together. Stephens asks that we take this setup and examine it through the lens of the Uncertainty Principle, applying it to human relationships.
The couple in question, an American woman named Georgie Burns (Tamara Hickey) and an Englishman of Irish descent named Alex Priest (Malcolm Ingram), meet in a London railway station. The fortyish Georgie strikes up a conversation with 75-year-old Alex, who is sitting quietly on a nearby bench.
Hickey, all frantic gesticulation and shrieking verbalization, homes in on Ingram with such delirium that even a marginally sane person would flee into the night. She moves in sometimes sweeping, other times jerking fashion, arms and legs jutting in multiple directions, and lights on Ingram’s bench. Buttoned-up Ingram, though nonplussed, submits to her questions, and the two have something of a conversation.