Tuesday, June 09, 2015


photo: Joan Marcus

An almost-bare stage, two actors, razor-sharp direction, simple lighting, a few props: sometimes this is all you need to create an absolutely magnetic piece of theater. Such is the case with Heisenberg, the new play by Simon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) Stephens receiving its world premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club's intimate Studio at Stage II. It may well be the hottest ticket in town these day, due in large part to the low ticket price ($30 a pop) and the presence of Mary-Louise Parker, returning to her Off-Broadway roots and giving her best stage performance in over a decade.

In Georgie -- a pathologically lying American living in London -- Parker has found a role exquisitely tailored to her particular strengths. We first meet her in a train station, where she's embarrassed herself by kissing the neck of a complete stranger, an Irish butcher named Alex (the extraordinary Denis Ardnt). You see, she momentarily lost herself, thinking Alex her late husband. She poignantly explains how much she misses him, tears held perfectly in her eyes. Moments later, she confesses that she's never been married.

After the chance meeting, Georgie continues to insert herself in Alex's life, alternately exasperating and beguiling him. She appears at his butcher shop, not looking to buy any meat. She makes confessions as quickly as she retracts them. The writing places Georgie perilously close to stereotype -- the audience could as easily be annoyed with her as Alex sometimes is -- but Parker's finely wrought work helps accentuate the character's seductive and sensual elements. Parker has never been a particularly sexy performer, despite playing sexualized characters; here, when she asks Alex to bed, you never question whether it's something she would do, or what the outcome would be.

Arndt is an actor primarily seen in California and West Coast regional theater. If the Lortel Archives are accurate, this production represents his first foray onto the New York stage in nearly thirty years. Let's hope the next interval isn't so lengthy, because he is a revelation. Playing against an actor as plugged into the text as Parker cannot be easy, yet Ardnt's Alex matches her step for step, and he manages to be just as spontaneously surprising as his co-star. Together, they comprise the most kinetic couple on the New York stage.

[$30 full price ticket, fourth row audience right]

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