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Broadway review: Mary-Louise Parker and Denis Arndt strike unusual sparks in Heisenberg

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman

“Do you find me exhausting but captivating?” asks Georgie in Simon Stephens’s sweet, surprising Heisenberg. Since she is played by Mary-Louise Parker, at full quirky tilt, the answer is a resounding yes on both counts. The object of Georgie’s initially unwelcome affection is Alex (a lovely, understated Denis Arndt), a stranger more than 30 years her senior, whose neck she kisses in a London train station. It is hard to discern her motives, because she surrounds herself in a hurricane of self-conscious verbiage that alternates between brutal honesty and pathological lies. But if she’s crazy, she’s also a fox, and Alex—an introverted butcher and lifelong bachelor—can’t resist her for long.

If I understand the oblique title correctly, Heisenberg is about how being with another person—being observed, at close range —can affect your direction. Georgie and Alex are set in their different ways, defining who they are by who they’ve been; their unlikely romance opens them to things they would not have imagined for themselves. Mark Brokaw’s spare production, which played at Manhattan Theatre Club's small City Center space last year, seem even less imposing in the company's Broadway house, but that works to its advantage. Stephens’s carefully crafted 75-minute play has a sense of how little its characters matter to the universe. It makes that smallness feel liberating.   

Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (Broadway). By Simon Stephens. Directed by Mark Brokaw. With Mary-Louise Parker, Denis Arndt. Running time: 1hr 15mins. No intermission. Through Dec 11. Click here for full ticket and venue information.

Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam

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