Studio Season At The Rep Opens With “Heisenberg”- Mixing Quantum Physics And Unexpected Romance

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Alex is upset with Georgie who has tracked him down at his butcher shop- Joneal Joplin and Susan Louise O’Connor in “Heisenberg” at the Rep Studio. Photo: Jon Gitchoff

Although quantum physics actually has nothing to do directly with the play, “Heisenberg,” the man who came up with the Uncertainty Theory inspired playwright Simon Stephens to create a love story based indirectly on his theory. If that name sounds familiar, Stephens wrote the highly successful opening to the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis season in September, “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time.”

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Joneal Joplin as Alex and Susan Louise O’Connor as Georgie in the Rep Studio production of “Heisenberg. Photo: Jon Gitchoff

According to program notes and my erudite friend who rode along to the theatre with me Friday night, this bizarre theory has to do with the inability to measure the position and velocity of a particle at the same time due to their unpredictability. My friend added some obscure story about not knowing if a cat was dead until you saw him rise and stretch. Okay, thank heavens we didn’t have to sit through an almost 90 minute one act about that!

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Joneal Joplin as Alex dances with Susan Louise O’Connor’s Georgie in “Heisenberg” at the Rep Studio. Photo: Jon Gitchoff

What we have is an improbable love story between a 75 year old butcher from London and a 42 year old American woman who is a pathological liar. Doesn’t sound like a very likable story but it works thanks to wonderful performances and astute direction. Alex Priest is a butcher who enjoys sitting and watching the folks go by in a busy train station. We meet both characters right after Georgie Burns has “mistakenly” kissed Alex on the neck from behind. Claiming she thought he was her ex husband, she rattles off a tale that is so complicated you know it has to be a lie.

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Susan Louise O’Connor relaxes with Joneal Joplin as Georgie and Alex in the Rep Studio production of “Heisenberg.” Photo: Jon Gitchoff

Despite his reluctance, the brooding specter of loneliness prompts Alex to engage her in conversation. Over the next few weeks we see their relationship grow in unimaginable ways that even takes them to New Jersey in a most illogical May/December romance that is truly fostered out of a desire for human connection. Playwright Stephens said he used Heisenberg’s theory to let the characters bounce around and carry out their own fate. The result is charming but at times jarring. That’s where two convincing actors take over.

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Joneal Joplin in his 101st performance at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis in the Studio Theatre production of “Heisenberg.” Photo: Jon Gitchoff

Joneal Joplin is performing in his 101st play for the Rep. His easy presence land occasional skepticism is the perfect match for the steady yet curious Alex. He appears to go along with Georgie just to see where things will lead. Susan Louise O’Connor is a force to be reckoned with as Georgie. It’s hard to tell where the line between truth and lies is drawn but her utter spunk and free spirit make her more likable than the actual character should be. Together they are a force of wonder and amazement that turn this improbable situation into a relatively pleasant play. We, as well as the playwright, his characters and Heisenberg are just waiting to see what will happen next.

Rep Artistic Director, Steven Woolf, has captured that spirit of unpredictability in his focus for the play. We find each moment of their lives together more unbelievable but we just can’t turn away. Will their friendship/love affair continue? Do they each have a motive or are they both fascinated with each other? Do we ever get an answer? These and other questions will be answered (or not) as “Heisenberg” floats rather than plays out on the Studio stage.

Peter and Margery Spack have designed an innovative and useful set stretching the length of the Studio space with audience on either side. The actors themselves move the minimum of set pieces around to change the scene and it all works convincingly. Nathan W. Scheuer’s lighting design perfectly frames their little world and Marci Franklin’s costumes are appropriate to this decades span of new found friends and lovers.

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Joneal Joplin as Alex and Susan Louise O’Connor as Georgie in “Heisenberg” at the Studio Theatre of the Rep. Photo: Jon Gitchoff

This is perfect fare for the Studio theatre at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Intimate play, intimate setting and raising questions of where the whole thing is going. You can catch “Heisenberg” at the Studio through November 12th. Give them a call at 314-968-4925 for tickets or more information.

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