Saturday, March 25, 2023
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Heisenberg - Mary-Louise Parker & Denis Arndt Broadway's newest odd couple

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

Two chairs. Two tables. Two actors. 80 minutes. No intermission. Additional tiered bleacher onstage seating added. Long narrow acting area. Is this a table tennis match we are about to see at the MTC production of HEISENBERG at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre?

Perhaps. The intriguing title by its author Simon Stephens who is best known for his hit play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night” refers to German physicist Werner Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle.” There is a “fuzziness in nature” about how things will behave.

In this instance 75 year old low key Alex Priest (Denis Arndt) and 40 something hyper Georgie Burns (Mary-Louise Parker) the oddest of odd couples in an odd play – or rather character study of an English butcher and an American in England who may or may not be what she says she is. An assassin? A waitress? A photographer? A woman in search of her son?

As she chatters away in a series of short vignettes do we really care? Ominous music and abrupt light cues signal the scene changes.

Starting in a train station (use your imagination) where quirky Georgie has seen and kissed Alex on the neck (we do not see this) she proceeds to confuse him and us as she prattles on in a somewhat reminiscent style of Diane Keaton. She baits. She flirts. She curses. I wondered why he stays as long as he does with this odd woman and then he abruptly leaves. Good.

Next we find him in his butcher shop (imagine again) when she arrives having discovered where he works. Is she a stalker as well? This continues for a while and we wonder why there are no customers – and then this is summarily addressed by Mr. Stephens.

For some odd reason Alex becomes interested besides being bewildered by her. She draws him out and into bed. I will stop here with their developing affair. There is a bit more here than meets the eye but it is pretty slim pickens. At best it’s interesting.

In my review of “The Snow Geese” I berated Mary-Louise Parker for her lack of projection. She has been hard at work it seems and her vocals are A plus. Mr. Arndt doesn’t fare as well.

His part is less flashy but we miss lots of what he has to say – perhaps due to the odd staging by director Mark Brokaw who has his actors contorting themselves to be fair to the members of the audience both on stage and in the house.

It’s an odd choice. All around. Perhaps HEISENBERG would be better served off-Broadway where it originated. And less expensive for a pound of would-be steak where there isn’t much meat on the bone.

Photo: Joan Marcus