Heisenberg with Mary Louise Parker

Simon Stephens Brings Quantum Entanglement to Life

By: - Jun 20, 2015

y Simon Stephens
Manhattan Theatre Club
Starring Dennis Arndt and Mary Louise Parker
New York, New York
June 17, 2015

Immediately the prospective theatre goer asks: why Heisenberg?  A play starring Mary Louise Parker could well echo her tour de force performance in Proof.  Then, as the daughter of a brilliant, mad mathematics professor she tries both to embrace her father's abilities and avoid craziness. 

An actress who embraced math as successfully as Voltaire's mistress, Emilie de Chatelet, could well be intrigued by quantum physics.  Neither she nor we have to understand the abstruse notions, which are byplay to the unfolding May-December romance. 

Playwright Simon Stephens has taken certain, but daring turns.  Georgie Burns  played by Parker embodies Heisenberg concepts.  She is not Heisenberg.  Instead she could be either an inspiration for his insights into uncertainty, or an effort to bring to life dusty pages of a physics text.

We are certain about Gracie's tumble with Alex, a butcher who is about to close shop in London.  Nobody goes to butcher shops any more.  Other facts are given to us, or not.
Actually Parker is the Gracie Allen of the Burns-Allen act: a ditsy, addle-headed, Dumbo Dora to the butcher's straight man.  Some say in fact that the character is just like Parker herself.  You start with questions posed: why is this young woman approaching an old man and impulsively kissing him and then starting to seduce him?  Is she telling the truth?  Does she have a son missing in action?  Was she ever married?  Is this a con game?  None of these questions are answered.  By the end you simply buy into the moment and wait for the unexpected to happen or not.
Parker dances and sparkles as Gracie.  She intrigues the old man.  In fact, she brings him to life before our eyes.  He even buys himself a denim jacket. It seems that he has always wanted one and never dared. 
The final questions which nail their commitment (or not) suggest these two may make it as a couple because they accept each others uncertainty.  Maybe Heisenberg gleaned these ideas as he watched  his six children at play.
But who cares? It is a delightful evening of theatre.  Because uncertainty creates suspense, it is a mystery.  If you want to know how facing the future can delight, see this play.  See it anyway.  Both performances are stunning.