Veronica Slavin

Thanks to Katharine Farmer, a talented young director from England, the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura continues its hot streak by introducing another excellent 21st-century play to Southern California audiences with Heisenberg, a thoroughly engrossing two-character one act by British playwright Simon Stephens. Heisenberg wraps Joseph Spano and Faline England in 90 minutes of closely observed, emotionally charged, and delightfully animated dialogue as an odd couple whose significant difference in age becomes the point of departure for insight rather than instability.

At a distance, the premise appears questionable. Is it really the right time for a romance between a woman in her forties and a man in his seventies? Yet from its opening gesture — a kiss on the back of the neck — Heisenberg persistently invades and occupies intimate personal spaces in a way that feels real and earned, rather than forced and gratuitous. Spano plays the socially isolated London butcher Alex Priest as a wonder of watchable interiority. He speaks every line as though it were just what his character needs to say in that moment.

As Georgie Burns, the brash American who invades Alex’s privacy, Faline England shines with a rare delight. By turns flirty, inappropriate, vulnerable, and severe, Georgie lights a fire in Alex that takes both characters by surprise. Sexy and fun, wise and unsentimental, Heisenberg is theater for adults in the best sense, and it is just the kind of thing to send audiences out into the clear cold night with warm new feelings of potential and freedom.


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