Jan 12, 2020
by Jeanie K. Smith , San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
When you focus on where something is, you can’t tell where it’s going; and when you observe something moving, you can’t tell where it is — that’s the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in a nutshell, and from the world of science it supplies the central metaphor for Simon Stephens’ latest play concerning an unlikely, unpredictable and uncommon relationship. Left Edge Theatre serves up this delightfully different comedy with zest, featuring two first-rate talents and attractive staging.
Stephens is best known for his high-tech intrigue,The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, that follows an unusual young man on a life-changing journey. In Heisenberg, he abandons all the tech and the large ensemble for a bare stage, focusing on the seemingly random connection between two people. Forty-two year old Georgie (Shannon Rider) sees an older man in a London train station and plants a kiss on the back of his neck. The ensuing conversation between her and Alex (John Craven) reveals Georgie’s motor-mouth, her swearing, and her tendency to fabricate. Alex’s native reserve keeps him relatively quiet, although we do learn the location of his butcher shop and his unwed status.
The encounter seems to end there, until Georgie shows up a week later in Alex’s shop— stalking? Or just being forward? Alex wonders, but Georgie’s exuberance and quirky nature begin to work on his caution, and the relationship moves again in a new direction. As we follow the liaison in short scenes, the growing warmth is suddenly mitigated by a shocking revelation that threatens to end it.But direction shifts again, and where the pairing ultimately goes surprises and tantalizes.
Stephens gives us a relationship full of uncertainty and shaky ground, but also a testament to hope, no matter what age we are or where we have been before— life throws us opportunity and surprise, and love is just around the corner, in unlikely guise.
Accomplished actors Craven and Rider clearly enjoy playing these endearing characters and their zig-zag journey, and get to demonstrate their wonderful talents in the demands of a two-person show. It’s hard to see their chemistry in opening scenes, but they show more mutual attraction as the plot proceeds. Craven’s excellent capabilities with an Irish accent are not enough in evidence here— would have liked more. Rider’s extreme zaniness in the beginning settles in to better believability, and gives us touching vulnerability in later scenes.
Director Carla Spindt keeps the movement sprightly throughout, nicely negotiating the back and forth dance between the characters, but oddly fumbles the ending. Argo Thompson’s beautiful set gets terrific enhancement from April George’s lighting and clever projections by Chris Schloemp; a minor quibble in that the stage isn’t bare enough— less furniture would mean less need for elaborate scene changes. Sound design by Joe Winkler captures ambient sounds and enchanting tango music. Sandra Ish’s costume design makes Georgie coquettish rather than quirky, and Alex looks down and out in baggy pants and disheveled overcoat.
Funny, touching and thought-provoking, this uncommon romantic comedy sneaks up on you and tugs at your heart— and just might supply a good dose of hope for life’s surprises. See it for humor and warmth to start off your new year.
Presented by Left Edge Theatre
through February 2, 2020
Thu/Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 2:00pm
Tickets: $15 - $42
Studio Theatre, Luther Burbank Center for the Arts
50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Photos by Katie Kelley
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