Review: Heisenberg

David Schurmann and Carly Street in Heisenberg. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann


Canadian Stage

Written by Simon Stephens. Directed by Matthew Jocelyn. Set and costumes by Teresa Przybylski. Lighting by Steve Lucas. Sound by Creighton Doane. Runs until December 17.

Did Georgie (Carly Street) kiss Alex (David Schurmann) on the neck by accident, thinking he was someone else, or was it calculated? Can a true relationship exist between these two people when one of them has lied to the other a lot? What does physicist Werner Heisenberg’s 1927 uncertainty principle—“that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known and vice versa”—have to do with Simon Stephens’ gentle play? Canadian Stage’s beautiful production of Stephen’s Heisenberg asks these provocative questions.

It’s always a tricky proposition to introduce a character who lies as much as Georgie does at the beginning of Heisenberg. Even though she comes clean to Alex and presumably will begin to tell the truth, we are wary. But that feeling diminishes because of the endearing way Georgie is played by Street. She is quirky, with her speech pattern including a mass of stops and starts. She’s almost socially awkward and obviously anxious to please and charm.

In a thoughtful performance, Schurmann approaches his character Alex with a pragmatic maturity. Alex is not set in his ways, as one would expect of a man who is seventy-five, but he does have a certain order in his life: he listens to all kinds of music, he walks everywhere and notices things, he’s endlessly curious. Initially he regards Georgie with bemusement and perhaps confusion—he can’t see well, his retinas are wonky, so perhaps that accounts for his quizzical look. But the much younger Georgie awakens in him a quiet sense of adventure. Schurmann does not make Alex into a lovesick puppy. Instead, he presents Alex as the voice of reason, and not stodgily so. He tells her the truth with kindness. Both actors give lovely performances.

Of the three productions I’ve seen of Heisenberg—on Broadway in New York, the West End in London, and here in Toronto—this one is the best. There is such delicate simplicity in director Matthew Jocelyn’s production. Designer Teresa Przybylski has created the most minimalist set: a square stage of wood slats into which is a revolve, referencing what Alex calls “the circling world.” The props are few: two chairs, a bench, a sheet. At each corner of the square stage are sunken compartments holding changes of costumes. At times when Alex and Georgie are revealing their lives, the revolve moves very slowly. This could be “echoing” the two adults circling each other, carefully revealing their secrets. The effect is quite engaging.

Jocelyn directs this play with sensitivity and simplicity. There is nothing fussy about this production, just the delicate, gentle revealing of characters who open up to each other, and the gradual development of love. As for the title Heisenberg and how the uncertainty principle applies to the play—I think Stephens is being cute if not maddeningly esoteric. In an uncertain world, two unlikely people find each other and fall in love. We don’t need physics theorems to explain it. Wonderful production.

For tickets or more information, click here.

One response to “Review: Heisenberg”

Leave a Reply

We’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment below, but please read our conditions first: 1) Be respectful, 2) Please don’t spam us, 3) We will remove any comments that contain hate speech, pornography, harassment, personal attacks, defamatory statements, or threats. Thanks for your understanding.

Your email address will not be published.

Written By

Lynn is the former theatre critic for Intermission, and currently writes reviews on her blog The Slotkin Letter. She also does theatre reviews, interviews, and commentary for CIUT Friday Morning (89.5 FM). She was a theatre reviewer for CBC's Here and Now for ten years. On average, she sees 280 shows a year.