This tale of a chance meeting is charming and “gently funny”, on stage in Toronto
The Canadian Stage production of Simon Stephens‘ Heisenberg had its Canadian premiere at the Berkeley Street Theatre on Thursday. It’s the final play that Matthew Jocelyn is directing as Artistic and General Director and it’s a terrific note to end on.
The play is an unconventional love story that unfolds on an almost bare stage. There is nothing to distract from the acting which makes or breaks the piece, and the acting was fabulous.
Carley Street was superb as Georgie, a 42 year old American living in London. She got the character absolutely right. She found the perfect spot between scary crazy lady and zany; no filters, vulnerable, frustrating, and endearing, but reaching out to life with both hands. A wonderful performance.
David Schurmann was perfect as Alex, a 75 year old butcher, unemotional on the surface but given to crying for no reason, solitary, and content with his life. Initially he seems almost like an accessory supporting Georgie’s narrative but as the play progresses Alex opens and comes into his own.
The play begins in a train station in London. Georgie has just mistaken Alex for her dead husband and kissed him on the back of the neck.
It ends in a park in Hackensack, New Jersey where they have gone to look for Georgie’s son. One of the loveliest scenes in the play is Georgie and Alex dancing a tango in the park with no music.
In between it zigzags through the development of their relationship. I loved seeing a May-September romance develop between two people who are 42 and 75.
The dialogue is fantastic. Georgie sounds like an American and Alex sounds like a Brit. The play is gently funny rather than rolling in the aisles funny. Georgie says things like “Do you find me exhausting but captivating?”. Alex has a great speech about the kinds of music he likes.
My companion Wayne thought that staging the play in the round worked very well; it made it very intimate. He thought the rotation of the stage was well done. It only rotated during static scenes; scenes where the actors were not moving on the stage, and it was almost imperceptible. So imperceptible that I only noticed it during one scene.
Teresa Przybylski’s set was absolutely bare bones. The actors moved a bench or chairs on to the stage when they were needed. That was it. In the four corners of the stage there were small hatches that the actors lifted to pull out minimal props; a butcher’s apron, a sheet, lip gloss.
Scene changes were signalled by the lights going down, coming up for a vignette of what we were about to see, going down again, and then coming up for the new scene. Effective design by Steve Lucas.
Wayne and I both liked that the characters were presented with warts and all. Przybylski’s costumes made no attempt to pretty them up up. They looked like real people and they looked as if they were the ages they were portraying. I particularly liked that they looked their ages.
Given the title of the play I’m sure we’re supposed to make some connection between it and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle but I’d rather enjoy the play for what it is and not try to have to understand physics to search for an elusive meaning. Physics was never my strong suit.
Wayne and I both really enjoyed Heisenberg. You should go see it. It’s lovely and it’s a perfect break from all the frantic activity this time of year.
- Heisenberg is playing until December 17, 2017 at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street)
- Showtimes are Tuesday through Thursday at 8:00 pm, Friday at 7:00 pm, matinees Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 1:00 pm
- Ticket prices range from $35.10 to $69.00
- Tickets are available online, by phone at 416.368.3110, and at the box office.
Photo of David Schurmann and Carly Street by Cylla von Tiedemann