Santa Rosa’s Left Edge Theatre kicks off the New Year with Simon Stephens’ Heisenberg. The two-character dramedy about a May–December romance runs through Feb. 2.
The title does not refer to either character, but to German physicist Werner Heisenberg. The Nobel Prize winner is best known for his 1927 uncertainty principle that, in its simplest definition, states there’s a limit to what you can know with certainty about one thing at any one time.
What’s that got to do with a 42-year-old American single mother and a 75-year-old Irish butcher in London? Everything.
Alex Priest (John Craven) is sitting in a London railway station minding his own business when Georgie Burns (Shannon Rider) approaches him from behind and kisses him on the neck. She quickly apologizes to Alex and explains that he reminded her of someone she recently lost. The uber-extroverted Georgie then initiates a lengthy one-sided conversation in which she repeatedly contradicts herself. The ultra-introverted Alex finds himself caught like a deer in headlights, eventually sputtering “Why are you talking to me?”
It’s not giving too much away to say that these two disparate characters will end up together, but credit playwright Stephens (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) for never giving us any sense of certainty about their long-term prospects. Motormouth Georgie makes us wonder if the two have any prospects at all with her repeated verbal barrages of inconsistencies and outright lies about who she is, but she piques Alex’s and the audience’s interest in her for the show’s 85 intermission-less minutes.
The great leveler between these two is loneliness, and nobody plays a world-weary soul better than Craven. Rider’s challenge is to bring vulnerability to a character who comes on like a runaway train. She succeeds in letting us see what Alex sees. They venture into an uncertain future together, each on their own terms.
Some strong technical work complements the Carla Spindt-directed performances. Lighting by April George and sound by Joe Winkler allow Argo Thompson’s minimalist set to easily transform from a train station to a butcher shop to a bedroom to Hackensack, N.J.
At one point in the show Georgie asks Alex, “Do you find me exhausting, yet captivating?” The same question could be asked of this show, and the answer would be a resounding “yes.”
Rating (out of 5): ★★★★
‘Heisenberg’ runs through Feb. 2 at Left Edge Theatre. 50 Mark West Springs Rd., Santa Rosa. Thu–Sat, 8pm; Sun., 2pm. $15–$42. 707.546.3600. leftedgetheatre.com