Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
That sounds like a scientific formulait's actually an extrapolation of physicist Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, which demonstrates that scientists cannot measure both the position and the speed of a particle with absolute precisionbut it's also the inspiration for Heisenberg, the sweet two-character play now in the ARK Theatre at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia. Playwright Simon Stephens brings together two strangers in a London railroad station and, over the space of 90 minutes, lets the audience see what happens.
Director Joe Calarco brings the audience into the intimacy of the story with in-the-round seating; Pamela Weiner's scaled-down set consists of a space-delineating red floor and two structures that can convert into benches, tables, or a bed. Georgie Burns (Rachel Zampelli), a brash American woman, approaches Alex Priest (Michael Russotto), older and self-contained, and soon is turning his life upside down while also surprising herself.
At first, the two seem comically mismatched. Georgie never stops talking and constantly contradicts herself, while Alex, who moved to London from Ireland as a child, is self-employed as a butcher and keeps to himself. She's disorganized, he's fastidious. They both have endured losses (if Georgie's sad stories are to be believed), but while Alex seems resigned to his, Georgie is determined to reach out.
Alex turns out to love all kinds of music, and he tells Georgie that the music "exists not in the notes, but in the spaces between the notes." Calarco has done much the same thing in the way he has staged Zampellifrenzied, often on the edge of exhaustionand Russottomethodical but ultimately hiding a few surprises. Their performances are like two melodies that seem to clash but ultimately work together.
Alison Samantha Johnson's costume design shines most in the details of Georgie's outfits (notably, the elaborate embroidery on the cuffs of her beat-up jacket). Andrew Cissna's lighting design is largely naturalistic, but marks the end of a scene with momentary flashes of light.