Dated Comedy Still Brings the Humor

by Regina Ford

arsenic-19-flyerArsenic and Old Lace, directed by Dan Reichel, at the Community Players Playhouse on Oracle, is a farcical dark comedy, written by Joseph Kesselring. The play opened on Broadway on January 10, 1941 and ran 1,444 performances. Frank Capra directed the iconic film version starring Cary Grant in 1944.

This classic, and much-loved chestnut of a play, was an introduction to theatre for many theatre-goers. I think I’ve seen the play at least 10 times, and I wasn’t certain I could sit through it again. Let’s just say that I am very glad that I did.

Here is a tale of Martha and Abby Brewster, two cheerfully eccentric, but sweet and sincere maiden aunties. The women conduct mercy killings by poisoning lonely old men, a practice they believe is charitable by providing them with an early exit from this world. They give each man a proper Christian burial in the cellar of their quaint Brooklyn home. Their nephew, and cynical, dramatic critic, Mortimer Brewster, spends most of the play attempting to clean up his aunts’ messy killing spree and at the same time appease his fiancée, Elaine Harper, the daughter of the minister,  who desperately wants to get married. 

The plot gets more complicated when Jonathan Brewster, Mortimer’s evil, estranged brother and career criminal returns to their Brooklyn home. Jonathan is sporting a Boris Karloff-like face that has been surgically butchered to disguise his identity by the hard-drinking Dr. Einstein. The quack is a fan of Boris Karloff and used his face as a blueprint for Jonathan’s plastic surgery. Then there’s wacky brother, Teddy Brewster, who insists he is President Theodore Roosevelt and believes that the corpses that keep piling up are victims of yellow fever. He enthusiastically buries them in the cellar which he believes is Panama. Mortimer assumes Teddy has finally gone over the edge and is killing the men until he discovers another body in the window seat.

Arsenic and Old Lace is dated, no question, but the shtick is still charming. The show is a quaint interpretation of subject matter that in reality is borderline disturbing. At the time it ran on Broadway and in 1944 when it was a star-studded film, the atrocities of war were at their pinnacle. Arsenic and Old Lace offered escapism from those atrocities. Humor, even surrounding dark topics, is a way of coping for many and I believe the playwright knew this. The  Brewster sisters survive their daily lives with a warped religious explanation for murder. Their idea of salvation is twisted, but how has that changed in the last seven decades? Murder, assisted suicide, mental health issues (not a topic talked about openly at the time) are all issues that have become part of our reality. “Arsenic and Old Lace” is a history lesson of sorts. The sad truth is history repeats itself.

The director’s program notes provide insight into many of the play’s references from yesteryear that may be unfamiliar to audience members. Reichel managed to successfully capture the time period of the play and the set added to the feel of the time. Nikki Belio’s wallpaper did the set proud. I did have to giggle to myself when I noticed the black and white shoe on the first corpse was a Reebok (it was written on the sole).

Joanne Anderson (Martha Brewster) and Bobbi Whitson (Abby Brewster) bonded beautifully onstage. Anderson nailed the trusting persona of a sweet elderly lady so much so that I wanted to drink the arsenic-laced elderberry wine.

The cast had some heavy hitters who embraced their roles. Paul Hammack (Mortimer Brewster) had the bounding energy to keep the lengthy plot flowing with a character style that transported me back in time. Scott Berg (Jonathan Brewster) has a huge stage presence and offered a non-stereotypical twist to his character. Mike Manolakes (Teddy Brewster) took charge immediately and offered a believable burst of zaniness and light to the stage. His facial expressions were addicting. Larry Gutman (Dr. Einstein) played the creepiness of his deranged character with gusto, and Elaine Harper (Shann Oliver) provided the ideal balance and stronger female in all the insanity. 

The Community Players production of Arsenic and Old Lace is a trip back to theatre as I remember from decades ago and an example of how it should be done, by dedicated actors who are brave enough to revive roles from one of the classics.

Arsenic and Old Lace runs through September 22nd at The Community Players Playhouse. For tickets, visit: communityplayerstucson.org.

 

       

 

Meta Musical Fun

by Gretchen Wirges

There is a hopefulness about musicals that I love. They allow characters the perfect vehicle to release their hopes, dreams, love and loss. The song allows a heart to crack open and reveal itself, warts and all. SAPAC’s season/company opener, [Title of Show], accomplishes this not-so-easy feat in such a beautifully entertaining way. We not only get to see the warts, we also become privy to Wonder Woman, playbills, remote controls, Broadway call sheets, turkey burgers, and vampirish doubts that lurk on the insides of its dynamic characters.

The cast of [title of show]. Photo by Molly Condit at Great Bear Media, courtesy of Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company.

The cast of [title of show]. Photo by Molly Condit at Great Bear Media, courtesy of Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company.

At first glance, I reveled in the simplicity of the set design. With just four chairs, and some well-placed windows, I was transported into working/living spaces in New York City. The basic plot involves two friends, Jeff (Andy Miller) and Hunter (Tyler Wright) looking to shake off their humdrum day jobs and television obsessions in order to write a musical for a festival. The story is a musical about musical in a musical festival. They enlist other friends Heidi (Mara Katrina Capati), Susan (Robin Bousel), and accompanist Larry (Brice Kimble). The hilarity that ensues is meta, full of pop culture, and a lot of heart. 

The play, directed by Carson Wright, is incredibly witty, quick, and touching. It’s a story about friendship as much as it is a story about the creative process. The cast does a superb job in connecting and making us believe that they really care about each other. Wright especially impressed with his soaring voice, and his razor-sharp comedic timing. He has the ability to make the most subtle gestures and expressions that instantly bring the audience to fits of laughter. Miller, as Jeff, so deftly plays Abbot to Wright’s Costello. He delivers hilariously wry jokes with sincerity and sings perfect harmony with Wright. 

Photo by Molly Condit at Great Bear Media, courtesy of Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company.

Robin Bousel as Susan and Katrina Capati as Heidi. Photo by Molly Condit at Great Bear Media, courtesy of Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company.

Capati and Bousel, proclaimed in the script as “Secondary Characters” are anything but. Capati has the voice of a raspy angel. Her rendition of “A Way to Back Then” gave me chills and reminded me of my own childhood musings and dreams. Bousel delivers snarky sarcasm like a champ. Her witty one-liners were laser-focused and perfect. And her songs, most notably “Die Vampire Die” left me clutching my chest out of both laughter and poignancy. Both Capati and Bousel recently returned to Tucson. I couldn’t be more excited to see what they do next. 

Larry (Brice Kimble) is a mostly unseen character who accompanies the musical numbers. The occasional moments where he pops up are hilarious and perfectly timed. 

In a conversation with SAPAC director Dennis Tamblyn, I found out that this is considered the “clean version” of the script. The alternative version had more expletives and adult content. One of the elements removed from the clean version were any mention or innuendos of homosexuality. Tamblyn wasn’t happy that depicting or mentioning LGBTQ was categorized as “adult content”. He contacted the publishing company, Rodgers & Hammerstein, and said that he intended to do the clean version, but add those references back in. The publisher agreed that the categorization was antiquated and needed to be updated. This, my friends, is how we can continue to move theater forward. When we know better, we should do better. I’m happy that SAPAC chose to speak up instead of just relenting to seemingly bigoted delineation. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that the script is without flaw. It isn’t. I thought the female characters got caught in the tired trope of female cattiness. They also lament about being secondary to their male counterparts. But the cast overcame that with the strength of their performances. It also doesn’t mean the production itself is without flaw, it wasn’t. I thought the transitions could have been smoother by continuing to underscore the blackouts between scenes. The abrupt changes to silence often halted the momentum and stilted the story. 

All that being said, I left the theater singing Die Vampire Die, wanting to watch Wonder Woman, cursing Sutton Foster in solidarity, and daydreaming about being part of this show. The cast is a musical actor’s dream. And show itself is the contemporary musical lover’s musical. 

[Title of Show] has four more performances for you love: 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 20 and 21, and matinees at 2 p.m. on Sept. 21 and 22. The show is playing at the Temple of Music and Art Cabaret Theatre at 330 S. Scott Ave. Tickets are $25 Reservations/information: sapactucson.org, or by calling 261-0915.

 

Vive la Sisterhood

by Leticia Gonzalez

I’m sitting in my chair humming along to “Fight Song” and I have never been more ready to watch some badass women take names and kick ass. The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson, produced by Something Something Theatre, is a compelling story about the French revolution and sisterhood. They had me all up in my feelings. 

Dawn McMillan as Marianne Angelle, Samantha Severson as Olympe de Gouges, Whitney Woodcock as  Marie Antoinette, and Grace Otto as Charlotte Corday.

Dawn McMillan as Marianne Angelle, Samantha Severson as Olympe de Gouges, Whitney Woodcock as Marie Antoinette, and Grace Otto as Charlotte Corday. Photo Courtesy of The Something Something Theatre.

The scene starts with heads rolling. Almost quite literally until playwright Olympe De Gouges, portrayed by Samantha Severson, immediately decides that that is no way to start a play! Thank goodness for that! While the opening moments are nothing but dramatic, the play is, in fact, a comedy. I am in awe of Gunderson’s ability to write about the Reign of Terror and Madame Guillotine with a comical twist. However, this is not a one note play. Beneath the jokes and jabs, there are notes and moments to remind us that their lives are at stake. There is a striking moment when we get to see Madame Guillotine do her part. The combination of the lights, movement, and sounds are impactful. The moment is more abstract than explicit, but nonetheless I cringed. 

At first, I was baffled, because even though the play takes place during the French Revolution, the dialogue is modern. The sassy and playful banter among the four women is fun and refreshing. The wordplay and unexpected twists and turns kept me on my toes. Also, there were moments when they broke the fourth wall and engaged with the audience. As a result I felt even more connected to the women on stage due to the moment of mutual acknowledgment. 

Joan O’ Dwyer did a marvelous job selecting a cohesive ensemble. Each actress brought their character to life. Whitney Woodcock, who portrayed a credulous Marie Antoinette is hilarious. Her line delivery was on point. Samantha captures the formidable journey of Olympe as she decides her role in the revolution. Dawn MacMillan captured the badass passionate essence of Marianne Angelle. I particularly enjoyed the way she described her husband. She painted a picture of him that left me wondering, “Does he have a brother?” My favorite character was Charlotte Corday, portrayed by Grace Otto. There’s a moment where Charlotte reveals to Marianne that she is afraid. It’s a tender and awe-striking moment when one sees a strong person at their most vulnerable. It’s a gift to share one’s vulnerability as it is a gift to care for it. The intimacy between them is palpable as Marianne comforts Charlotte. They demonstrate what they want: sisterhood. 

This story is one for the books. It’s bold because it’s herstory. How often have we accepted history as truth without really recognizing that history itself is not only biased but has misconceptualized women? In this play, women reclaim their stories- their own person. We see the goddesses in them as well as their humanity. These four women inspire, empower, challenge, and hold each other accountable. Well-behaved women rarely make history, however, how many women that make history are overlooked or villainized? While these things did not occur in real life, the play acquaints us with four unapologetic women who have impacted and shaped history.

Remember when Wonder Woman came out? I don’t know about you, but when I left the cinema, I could have kicked anyone’s ass. When I left the theater last night, I felt empowered. I am grateful that Something Something Theatre exists in our community and appreciate their intention to produce plays by women for everyone. All of their plays this season are written by women and more than half are directed by women. My only qualm is that I wish that several of the playwrights had been women of color. Following the words of Sojourner Truth “And ain’t I a woman?”.

Don’t forget the cookies because The Revolutionists are bringing the tea. The show runs from September 12th – 29th at City High School’s Center for Collaborative Learning on 37 E. Pennington. All shows are at 7:30 PM with the exception of Sunday whose shows are at 2 PM. General admission is $25, however there are discounts available for seniors/students/military/teachers. They can be bought online at somethingsomethingtheatre.com. Have ten or more friends who need a proper herstory lesson? Gather them all up to see the show the same night for only $15 per ticket!

Familial Dysfunction and Poetry Abound in Long Day

by Chloe Loos

You have three options when reality is too painful to face: you can lose yourself in the past, you can worry about the future, or you can live in the present, on your own terms. The family of four presented in The Rogue Theatre’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s 1956 magnum opus Long Day’s Journey Into Night do all three. Sometimes different ones, and almost always at separate times. Where the text truly shines is in those moments of misbegotten allegiance when two people are finally in the same space. Of course, this doesn’t happen often, and we instead watch people pass like ships in the night, unable to see each other clearly.

Joseph McGrath as James, Theresa McElwee, Ryan Parker Knox as Jamie and Hunter Hnat as Edmund. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Rogue Theatre.

Joseph McGrath as James, Theresa McElwee as Mary, Ryan Parker Knox as Jamie, and Hunter Hnat as Edmund. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Rogue Theatre.

The play, directed by Cynthia Meier, takes place over the course of a single dark day in the summer home of the Tyrone family. Secrets are kept, secrets are shared, and the truth is not as simple as it might seem. Mary (Theresa McElwee) is still recovering from treatment for morphine addiction, of which husband James (Joseph McGrath) supports her wholeheartedly. Things are complicated by Edmund’s (played by Hunter Hnat) sickness and his bullheaded brother, Jamie (Ryan Parker Knox).

With a runtime of 2 hours and 50 minutes, the play is certainly long. Still, despite the fact that the text was cut down to shorten it, I felt that the performers were constantly battling the clock in order to tell the story. As a play about an incredibly dysfunctional family (of which they are aware, thanks to some lovely breaks of humour), there are rapid tonal shifts throughout that I felt often never quite reached their full intensity. When you need to get through that much material, even the pauses are filled with movement. But there wasn’t enough time to breathe; to sit in the weight of the poetry and sadness; to really hear what these people were trying to tell each other. Those times where we were allowed to sit in moments were absolutely breathtaking.

Hunter Hnat as Edmund and Theresa McElwee as Mary. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Rogue Theatre.

Hunter Hnat as Edmund and Theresa McElwee as Mary. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Rogue Theatre.

Each performer had moments of strength – particularly when their characters were being honest with themselves, but I was particularly impressed by Hnat’s laser-like intensity throughout the piece. Performing illness and strength is not easy, but Hnat executed it so well. A stand-in for O’Neill himself, we can see him react to and internalize all these moments in such a way that he felt the most solidly real out of all the performers. I believed this play was Edmund’s story, and as O’Neill recreated moments from his own life, it’s easy to see how he became the person he did. 

Staged in the round, the sitting room set featured ramshackle furniture underneath a hanging chandelier, off of which light glinted beautifully. A large set of stairs wound up into the black curtains. Across from it, a blue door. The message was clear. You can stay or you can go. The tension between those dominating pieces worked well, especially when characters ascended and disappeared into the blackness. As the play progressed and we got closer to night, the lighting and sound design helped us to feel like we just as trapped in that house as Mary was. Special shout out to the piano music by Russell Ronnebaum, who underscored the sense of longing implicit in the script.

That said, in a play about how the past, present, and future can all come back to haunt us, there were some indications this play is definitely of a time since gone. Some of the slang was hard to track, and there were some fatphobic jokes that weren’t entirely necessary. Surprisingly, it does pass the Bechdel test. There is a conversation between Mary and maid Cathleen (played by a subversive Holly Griffith) that was a nice break in the male-centric tragedy. I also appreciated the realistic handling of generational addiction, which is a conversation as important to have when the play was written as it is now. The play is what it is: an autobiographical piece about people being awful to each other while trying to make up for it and thus has value as a historic piece of American theatre. 

Yes, it’s long. But it’s so worthwhile if you’ve ever felt out of touch or out of reach of your community, humanity, or even reality.

Long Day’s Journey into Night is playing Thursday through Sunday at The Rogue Theatre (300 E. University Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85705) through September 29th. Tickets are available by calling 520-551-2053, at the box office one hour before the performance, or on the web at theroguetheatre.org.

Elevator Goes Nowhere

by Gretchen Wirges

ElevatorSeptember 11, 2001. It was a day that changed me. It was a day that changed the lives of many people I know. It was a day that changed our country irrevocably. On the anniversary, I often find myself shying away from social media and general news content to avoid the sensationalism and morbid reflection. Instead, I lean more toward artistic solace in the form of music and theater. This year, I attended Elevator, written and directed by local playwright Patrick Carson, currently being staged by The Tucson Community Theater Company.

The story is a fictional account of a group of individuals who were in one of the elevators of the North Tower of the World Trade Center when the events occurred. Stuck together in the elevator for the duration of this play, we learn more about the occupants  (played by actors David Updegraff, Elizabeth von Isser, Charlize Diaz de León, Tony Eckstat, Jade Ashton and Peter Bryfogle.) 

As an actor and a director myself, I always appreciate the work that goes into forming a full-scale production. The set looked like an expanded version of a real elevator that you’d find in any high-rise. It’s accuracy was impressive. Because the entire play takes place in that elevator, the size was exaggerated, and the walls cheated out to provide enough room, while giving the visual cues of the context of the play. 

However, the facility used for staging the production -a big banquet hall- was less than ideal. Half of the audience were sat in chairs at folding tables covered with plastic table cloths. I mention this only because it set a tone of amateurish informality that made me already feel separated from the expression of the work. Because of the less than ideal setting, the sound quality and production was also lacking. Each of the actors wore a lapel microphone that popped, hissed, and/or squealed with feedback every time they physically interacted with each other or moved in their costumes. Toward the end of the play, the characters are often coughing from smoke inhalation, which exacerbated the sound issues. 

The script itself is unbearably cliched and problematic. The characters were archetypal caricatures: bigoted business man, powerful lesbian woman, pregnant Muslim woman, uneducated blue-collar man, affable Englishman, and naive, pretty secretary. Because of these broad strokes, there are rare moments of realness between the characters. Instead, the play often devolves into trite declarations, predictable platitudes, and borderline offensive depictions of misogyny, racism, homophobia, and classism. The Muslim woman literally says fewer than 10 words in the first 30 minutes of the play. I saw it as an attempt for the playwright to make a social commentary with this device, when in reality it plays off as empty altruism. 

In addition, there are issues with the story’s plausibility. For example, throughout the majority of the play, smoke is seeping in through the cracks of the elevator. It isn’t until the play is almost over that there is a real reaction to that environmental factor. This is just one example, among many, that constantly took me out of the story because the action did not support previous information related earlier in the play. 

The performances by the actors were hindered by a script that never allowed them to fully realize the humanity of their characters. Further, the direction glossed over believable reactions to the events at hand. There was never really a sense of fear or urgency or pain or panic or grief that would make sense in such a situation. This disparity in logical reaction, in combination with an incredibly thin script, had many of the performances just falling flat for me. 

Von Isser (Edie) and Diaz de León (Tina) managed to find some lovely moments for their individual characters that gave us a peek into their emotions and grounded their performances as the most believable and interesting to watch. I truly believe the other cast members, with stronger direction, could have come off as so much more than the stereotypes they were burdened to play. 

In the end, I was not able to find even a crumb the artistic solace I was looking for. 

Elevator will run through September 29th. Performances are Thursday through Saturday (with the exception of 9/21) at 7:00 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. All performances will be at the GLH Hotel Event Center at 1365 W Grant Road.

 

What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?

by Annie Sadovsky Koepf

Most people have choices in their lives that, upon reflection, have the potential to change its course; which college to attend, what career path to follow, who to spend their lives with. In the case of the play Now and Then by Sean Grennan, playing at Invisible Theatre, this theme plays out in showing us a couple who consider changing the direction of their relationship, but to what end. 

The play opens with Jamie, played by William Seidel, closing up the local Irish pub where he works. The door flies open with a flourish and fury, and a man, played by Michael F. Woodson, blows in. Although it is closing time, he requests a drink and won’t take no for an answer. The Man goes over to a video game and astounds Jamie by getting a high score. Abby, Jamie’s girlfriend played by Gabriella De Brequet, bounces in and so the stage is set for the reflective drama to begin. The Man offers them an increasingly large amount of money to keep the bar open and sit, chat and drink with him. 

Gabriella De Brequet as Abby, William Seidel as Jaime, Susan Cookie Baker as The Woman, and Michael F. Woodson The Man. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Invisible Theatre.

Gabriella De Brequet as Abby, William Seidel as Jaime, Susan Cookie Baker as The Woman, and Michael F. Woodson The Man. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Invisible Theatre.

Designer James Blair did a masterful job with the set. From the dart board, to the video game, and bottles behind the bar, we have no doubt that we are in a Chicago neighborhood pub circa 1981. I kept looking around to see each perfect detail that he captured. There was no doubt in my mind that I was there. Co-directors Susan Classen and Samantha Cormier have done a commendable job with the casting. The ensemble is delightful in its interactions on stage. With the actors perched on bar stools, and drinking shots, even using the real theatre bathroom, there was no question that a scene in a bar was transpiring. The couples really appear to be very much in love, and dialogue flows effortlessly. 

Susan Cookie Baker, who plays The Woman, at times, looks like an older version of Gabriella De Brequet and has her mannerisms and subtle gestures down pat. Is she Abby’s mom or aunt? We really aren’t sure what the connection is until the story unfolds. Baker artfully portrays two very different versions of her character. It is not solely the costumes and hairstyles, but the way she uses her posture, and physical presence on stage to achieve this.

De Brequet’s portrayal of Abby was totally enthralling as she daintily sipped her drink, and hungrily gobbled her rice crispy treats. She was able to reveal the character to us with her physicality as well as her emotional vulnerability. Abby is seen as a young woman deeply in love but conflicted as what the course of her life should be. 

Seidel plays Jamie’s clumsy and awkward and not quite sure of himself, as young men are. His youthful exuberance is evident from the moment he enters the stage whistling. Where will his life take him? Will he get to play and perform with Miles Davis? The Man, played by Woodson, appears to be the most reflective. Often Woodson’s posture reveals a man who somehow is not happy with how his life has evolved. Woodson’s portrayal of the character’s inner dialogue and conflict is revealed by the simultaneous strength and uncertainty of the character. 

It seems to be The Man’s story. If there is any fault with the play, it is in the story itself. Was it truly the couple’s decision to change the course of their lives, or was it primarily the man’s decision? It appears that his is the driving force. Of course the play is set in 1981 and is perhaps reflective of the dynamics in relationships that was prevalent at the time. It is also written by a man. That being said, this is an incredible feel- good play that will leave you smiling as you exit. Laughter, joy and,hope were evident as the audience was exiting the theatre. Love is the theme of IT’s 29th season. Even a confirmed skeptic about love in 2019 will leave with a renewed feeling that love does indeed trump all else.

Now and Then is playing at Invisible Theater through September 15. Shows are 9/11, 9/12, 9/13, 9/14, and 9/15 at 7:30 PM. Matinees at 3:00 PM are available 9/7, 9/8, 9/14, and 9/15. Ticket prices are $35, and group tickets are available. The box office is 882-9721. Tickets are also available on the website at invisibletheatre.com.

 

Love, Lies, and Layers of Vulnerability

by Annie Sadovsky Koepf

So, it is September; often a time for the end of a summer romance for many. Live Theatre Workshop’s production of Heisenberg, by English playwright Simon Stephens, doesn’t address that theme, but another seasonal one of a May-December coupling. This phrase refers to a woman in the early part of her life, hence May, with a man at least 11 years older in the later part of his life, hence December. Although this is not a new topic, Sabian Trout’s direction, the playwright, and the actors all do a convincing job to present this in a novel way. A woman meets a stranger and gives him a kiss on the back of the neck, and the dance of courtship begins as the play opens.

Roberto Guajardo as Alex and Dallas Tomas as Georgie. Photo by Ryan Fagan, courtesy of Live Theatre Workshop.

Roberto Guajardo as Alex and Dallas Tomas as Georgie. Photo by Ryan Fagan, courtesy of Live Theatre Workshop.

Not often are we privy to those private moments between a couple as they navigate the waters of the early stages of a romance. Yes, we may see them at a party holding hands and gazing lovingly at each other, but we don’t see what happens between the two of them when they are alone. This is what is revealed in Heisenberg. As incongruous as this couple is with a 33-year age difference, Trout did an excellent job casting. Alex, played by Roberto Guajardo, is a 75-year-old Irish butcher who is a lifelong bachelor. Georgie, played by Dallas Tomas, is a gamine, 42-year-old, manic American receptionist. The scene is London today. The set is stark, and the scene changes are done by the actors themselves. Costuming is minimal and yet makes the characters so believable.
With the sparseness of the set, the costumes, and the lack of other characters, we are meant to focus on the couple. Alex appears closed and in no uncertain terms tells us he has no use whatsoever for feelings. He is adamant about that. Guajardo is a masterful actor as he reveals to us very slowly and subtly the many layers of Alex’s being. From the stereotypical curmudgeon we meet at the start of the play, he changes to a man who eventually is able to show his vulnerability to Georgie, and also to us. Georgie’s energy is so manic we want to get her to slow down. Gradually, she starts to relax and reveal her true self to us. I loved watching the physicality Tomas embraced as Georgie. It reinforced her childlike innocence as well as capitalizing on her sexuality. Make no mistake, Alex was taken by this, but he also responds to her the more she reveals her authentic self. Without distractions, we are able to focus on just two people discovering who the other is, and gradually, inconceivably, falling for each other. As unimaginable as they appear as a couple at the beginning of the show, as they grow and reveal themselves to each other, and to us, we can see why they are together.
This is where the title Heisenberg comes in. It is never referenced in the play. It alludes to German physicist Werner Heisenberg, who introduced his uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics in 1927. It states that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa. The Heisenberg reference is seen in the apparent disparity of the couple and their seemingly very different outlooks on the world. As we are introduced to the most unlikely pair and see who they are, we are not quite sure how this romance will turn out.
Yes, this is a story that has been told many times. However, it is still a story worth telling as it deals with a most primal need for all of us. That is the need for love and acceptance wherever we are fortunate enough to find it. As a 70-something woman and actor, I would love to see a show with the age differences reversed with the older character being a woman. Of course, I would love to play the lead character! Again, not a stereotypical boy toy or gold digger as the younger male, but with a genuine human connection between seemingly very different characters. All too often when there is an age difference between a couple, erroneous assumptions are made as to the ulterior motives of, usually, the younger member of the duo. The possibility of a genuine connection between this pairing is rarely seen, but this stereotype is not evident at all in Heisenberg. I loved the show and the reimagining of an oft-told tale. Although the author was male, with a strong female character in Georgie and a female director, I did not feel that this was a male-centric work. The theme that love is love is universal and is one that today still needs to be portrayed.
Heisenberg is playing at Live Theatre Workshop through September 28, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 PM, and Sunday at 3:00 PM. The phone number is 520 327-4242. Box office hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 1:00 – 5:00 PM. The box office is open on Thursday through Saturday at 6:30 PM. and Sunday at 2:15 PM. Ticket prices are $18-$20 and are also available through the website livetheatreworkshop.org.