Romantic uncertainty magnificently runs amok in “Heisenberg”

[Woody’s Rating: ★★★★★

An unlikely couple, Alex (John Craven, left) and Georgie (Shannon Rider), showcase “the uncertainty principle” in “Heisenberg.” Photo by Katie Kelley.

I feel a need to cannibalize one of my previous reviews.

When San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater produced “Heisenberg” in 2018, I wrote that I loved the two-person comic drama, labeling it “a marvelously offbeat and zany verbal rhapsody with equally marvelous overtones of insight and tenderness.”

That’s true once again.

But I love the new Left Edge Theatre production in Santa Rosa even more.

Especially Shannon Rider’s deliberately over-the-top portrayal as the inexplicably named Georgie Burns, a potty- and motor-mouthed, erratic, giggle-prone, flailing-armed, scheming 42-year-old American seductress.

Which is not to say John Craven isn’t excellent.

On the contrary, he portrays Alex Priest, a 75-year-old introverted, reclusive, diary-keeping, music- and Tango-loving, longtime-celibate butcher, with great skill and nuance.

It’s just that playwright Simon Stephens successfully intends Georgie’s explosive presence — and frequency of lying second only to Donald Trump’s — to draw so much more attention.

The 80-minute play begins with her kissing Alex’s Irish neck on a London train station, a life-changing action based on “the uncertainty principle” conceived by theoretical quantum physicist Werner Heisenberg.

His original notion, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, is that the position and velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory.

Stephens, who’d adapted the Tony Award-winning “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” from a novel, utilizes that 1927 concept as a metaphor for two articulate, needy and mercurial people who bond despite being opposites.

And yes, the romantic uncertainty that magnificently runs amok in “Heisenberg,” is decidedly worth traveling to Sonoma County to see — since it’s at once a delightful cat-and-mouse tale, a profound drama and a vivid exploration of how no one can really know how things will turn out once they’re set into motion.

Including Georgie’s need to embark on a quest to find her estranged 19-year-old son.

The offbeat romcom, deftly directed in this production by Carla Spindt on a stage uncluttered by props or much furniture, opened off-Broadway in 2015 and on the Great White Way the following year.

It always switches gears from comedy to pathos toward the end, with both elements being effective.

Early in “Heisenberg,” Georgie asks Alex if he finds her “exhausting but captivating.”

It becomes clear that he does.

As do I.

And I couldn’t help thinking that it’s a shame the theater was half empty the rainy night I saw it since Left Edge tickets are inexpensive — above all on Thursday nights when admission to the live performance is only slightly higher than the cost of a movie.

“Heisenberg” will play at the Left Edge Theatre, Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, through Feb. 2. Night performances, 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; matinees, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $25 to $40. Information: 707-536-1620 or

Contact Woody Weingarten, a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, at or


About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at or, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →