“We hold very different perspectives on experiences we imagine we’re sharing.” So speaks Alex, one of two characters in Simon Stephens’ “Heisenberg.” It’s a line that serves as the perfect summation of the play’s themes, and Zach Theatre’s new production plays off those differing perspectives to create a dynamic performance with two astonishing leads.
“Heisenberg” begins with the incidental meeting between Alex, a 75-year-old London butcher, and Georgie, a 42-year-old American expatriate whose 19-year-old son has abandoned her. The unlikely courtship between the pair is at the heart of the play, which explores the uncertainty in all relationships as well as the vague ways in which we influence others without even realizing it.
Plays with only two actors live and die on the chemistry of their performers, and in Harvey Guion and Liz Beckham, “Heisenberg” has an engaging, charming, heartbreaking pair. Beckham’s manic externalization of every passing thought is the perfect counter to Guion’s quiet insularity, and when the two meet in the middle, the result is nothing short of magical. Indeed, their remarkable pairing — guided by the deft directorial hand of Nat Miller, who very effectively uses staging in the round to highlight the couples’ varying perspectives — might just exceed the source material.
Stephens’ text is deft and subtle, featuring some unexpected narrative twists and deeply romantic moments. However, its ending is a bit abrupt, leaving some of the themes (as well as the plot-line) unsatisfyingly unresolved, and not in a meaningful way.
“Heisenberg” is, to be fair, a very good play; Beckham and Guion, however, are more than very good: They are excellent.
Zach is known in Austin for its large-scale productions on the massive Topfer Stage, so it is a welcome and refreshing change of pace to see them produce a smaller-scale piece on the Kleberg Stage that focuses less on spectacle and more on some truly remarkable performances. Beckham, Guion and Miller have proved that there is room for such subtlety even in Austin’s biggest theater company.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday through July 22
Where: 202 S. Lamar Blvd.