Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Heisenberg **

When I reviewed Bluebird at the Atlantic Theater in 2011, I said: “Don't be brokenhearted if you weren't able to get tickets to see Simon Russell Beale in Simon Stephens' 1998 play, now in a sold-out run at Atlantic Stage 2.” I could say the same about his new play at Manhattan Theatre Club. Unless you are a die-hard Mary-Louise Parker fan, you won’t be missing much if you didn’t score tickets to this one. After seeing three of his plays (Harper Regan, Bluebird and Punk Rock) and his adaptation of the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I have concluded that Stephens shows much more talent as an adaptor than as a playwright. In this two-hander, Parker once again plays the quirky, troubled soul that she was born to play — over and over and over. She is joined by the impressive Denis Arndt, an actor with a long list of regional credits, but who is new to me. Parker plays Georgie Burns, a 40-ish American expat in London, who, as the play begins, has just impulsively kissed Alex Priest (Arndt), a 75-year-old butcher sitting on a bench in a train station. The motor-mouthed Georgie then practically drowns Alex in a sea of words. A week later she shows up at his shop unexpectedly. The nature of her interest in this older man is a mystery. We eventually learn the reason or, at least, the purported one. With Georgie there’s always uncertainty, because she is prone to expressing two diametrically opposed views simultaneously. (Perhaps that’s where the title comes from.) We follow their interactions over the next six weeks. I will say no more about the slender plot. It’s a tour de force for the actors, particularly Parker, but it didn’t otherwise hold much interest for me. City Center’s Studio at Stage II has been reconfigured with the audience on both sides of the elongated stage. Except for two tables and two chairs, the set by Mark Wendland is bare. The costumes by Michael Krass do not call attention to themselves. Mark Brokaw’s direction is uncluttered. Running time: 85 minutes, no intermission.

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