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Denis Arndt and Mary-Louise Parker in Heisenberg, at the Mark Taper Forum. (Photo by Craig Schwartz)
Denis Arndt and Mary-Louise Parker in Heisenberg, at the Mark Taper Forum. (Photo by Craig Schwartz)

Heisenberg

Reviewed by Terry Morgan
Mark Taper Forum
Through August 6th 

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all seen plenty of “manic pixie dreamgirl” romantic comedies, and even enough of the subset of May/December relationship dramas — but these are sturdy tropes that will always be with us. The latest theatrical iteration of this genre is Simon Stephens’ Heisenberg, whose Manhattan Theatre Club production has just been transferred intact to the Mark Taper Forum. It’s an amiably empty sitcom, powered largely by the charm of its stars — but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I mildly enjoyed it.

Alex, a 75-year-old butcher (Denis Arndt), meets 40-something Georgie (Mary-Louise Parker) in a London subway when she unexpectedly kisses him on the back of his neck.

He takes this in stride but is confused when she forces him into conversation. He’s even more surprised when she shows up at his place of work, but eventually she gets past his defenses and gets him to take her out on a date. Their subsequent relationship is a blessing in his life, although Georgie’s motivations aren’t quite what he imagines.

Georgie is right in the wheelhouse of Parker’s established comic persona – a pushy, quirky attack lady who masks her vulnerability — and she provides the show with much of its vitality. However, the choice to give her character a lisp or vocal disability (which was distractingly inconsistent) hurts her performance by making some of her dialogue incomprehensible. Arndt has the less showy role, but is very credible as he reacts to Georgie’s provocations with bemusement or indignation.

Director Mark Brokaw gets good work from his actors, but the decision to stage the show in the round (which may have been the playwright’s) doesn’t help in terms of making the actors clearly audible. Stephens’ play is frequently funny and occasionally moving, although the characters are clearly comic types and are not remotely realistic. It succeeds as entertainment if you don’t examine it very closely. Also, the title bears only generic relation to the play — you could slap the name Heisenberg on any piece and say it was about uncertainty, and it would have more or less the same ephemeral, pointless connection.

 

Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; www.CenterTheatreGroup.org; Running time: one hour and 15 minutes with no intermission.

 

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