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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Heisenberg" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Heisenberg" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

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745 Ninth Ave. (50th - 51st)
New York, NY 10019
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Manhattan Theatre Club
Lynn Meadow, Artistic Director
Barry Grove, Exec. Producer

(Heisenberg Web Page)

By Simon Stephens
Directed by Mark Brokaw

Denis Arndt and Mary-Louise Parker

At the
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street

Scenic Design: Mark Wendland
Costume Design: Michael Krass
Lighting Design: Austin R. Smith
Sound Design: David Van Tieghem
Dialect Consultant: Stephen Gabis
Choreographer: Sam Pinkleton
Production Stage Manager: James FitzSimmons
Casting: Nancy Piccione
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Director of Artistic Operations: Amy Gilkes Loe
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Play Development: Elizabeth Rothman
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Director of Production: Joshua Helman
Line Producer: Nicki Hunter

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 16, 2016 Matinee

Simon Stephens’ 2015 play, Heisenberg, first produced by Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center, and now at their Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Broadway, was disappointing, as his 2014 play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, had been so absorbing and edifying. His previous Broadway play’s sets and astounding lighting design are timelessly memorable. But, in Heisenberg just a couple of stark, steel tables and chairs were moved about on less than half the stage. The remainder of the stage is set with risers for a multitude of extra orchestra seats. Thus, the entire visual effect was watching Mary Louise Parker (as Georgie Burns), playing a woman in her early 40’s, seduce and scam Denis Arndt (as Alex Priest), playing a man in his 70’s. If this May-October couple had been evocative of Bacall and Bogart, or Hepburn and Tracy, the air emanating from center stage would have been palpably thick. Arranging a swath of audience above and around Georgie and Alex did nothing to expend their heat. I kept thinking that Nina Arianda would have been better cast as Georgie for Mr. Arndt and Brian Dennehy for Ms. Parker, but so much for casting fantasy.

The British Alex is a butcher, who had one love in his life, several decades ago, and he keeps himself celibate to avoid the hassles of a relationship. As for the American, Georgie, who’s in London finding herself and maybe a son, if she actually has one, may work in a school, or she may work the bars, not from the serving end. Heisenberg presents an inherent battle of the wits, as Georgie meets Alex at a train station and does not let him go. As Ms. Parker’s speech is endlessly shrill with squeals of delight, and as Mr. Arndt’s dialogue is soothing, sometimes sobbing, mostly distant but occasionally sensual in a self-satisfied way, they truly seemed mismatched. Mr. Stephens’ play is finely and fascinatingly drawn. A mysterious young woman persistently draws a stranger deep into her life (and his bed), with a substantial cash payment passing from his bank to her palms, on an ever-changing premise of urgency. Was Georgie staring at Alex at the station because he looked weak, vulnerable, prosperous, an easy mark? If it was instant, sexual attraction, Ms. Parker’s tone and body language kept it well hidden. She, and especially Mr. Arndt, projected an array of internalized strategies and conflicts, rather than smoldering, pulsating hormones.

Mark Brokaw may have lit a fire with different casting, but Mr. Stephens’ Heisenberg also belongs on its original small stage. Mark Wendland’s “scenic design”, which only added a small cushion to the few pieces of steel, and Michael Kass’ costumes, which were jeans and shirt for Alex and slacks and shirt for Georgie, added nothing to the plainness of mood and imagery. I would have loved to see this play produced with dramatic, contemporary lighting, on the expanse of a full stage. Moreover, as an aficionado of the tango genre, Sam Pinkleton’s choreography for Ms. Parker’s limited attempt to help Alex embrace, was ill advised. Tango is close. This duo created more than enough space, and, unfortunately, that space spoke volumes.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at