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“Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle” takes a new form in the current production of HEISENBERG now at ACTs Geary stage through April 8th. Playwright Simon Stephens who wrote the hit adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time takes this moment of two strangers in a new direction. Director Hal Brooks brings two of the Bay Area's finest actors Sarah Grace Wilson and James Carpenter to play the clever Georgie and the older Alex in their "Brief Encounter". ACT Artistic Director Carey Perloff says she first saw the play in New York “In an unexpected way I was a huge fan of the playwright, Stephens, whose work is varied. For 90 minutes, I was inside the two lives of two extremely compelling strangers, watching a fascinating tale unfold.”

The Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg and his world-shattering observation how the universe works or, the way we observe the universe at work, takes this journey with this May December friendship romance through Becker or Pinter moments. Playwright Stephens’ brilliantly imagines an encounter meeting between two missed souls. HEISENBERG reunites Stephens with his creative team behind Curious Incident as he references to the ‘uncertainty principle”. A few pages into this 90 minute comedy, Georgie, who is a loose-cannon, fortysomething American in London has casually befriended an older silver-haired butcher, Alex. She explains how her failed relationship with her estranged son is tearing her up and the two strangers bond. He asks who she is and responds "I am an assassin", then backpedals and says she's a waitress. Alex can only ask, "Why are you talking to me?"

“If you watch something closely enough you realise you have no possible way of telling where it’s going or how fast it’s getting there,” says Georgie “Did you know that? If you pay attention to where it’s going or how fast it’s moving you stop watching it properly -That’s the fucking Uncertainty Principle.” At the end of Stephens’ Curious Incident, the young hero brainstorms for six minutes about math theories, in this math problem we are removed from every vague arc to quantum mechanics, the play takes the two characters on a unexpected friendship.The age difference is stunning and the on stage sexual romance is dynamic - the brilliant Carpenter brings a senior glow to his role and the sometimes annoying Wilson is brilliant as she takes the story in a different direction. The slippery Georgie with a flirtatious ego is determined as she laughs at Alex when she learns he’s 75. Being an old-fashioned silver, and missing any contact with women since his fifties, Carpenter, one of best in the Bay Area at his craft, beautifully charts Alex’s character arc from his first encounter to his finish, like an angry old lion that rolls over and is taken by a stranger who could be a huge con.

The two actors are highlighted by a celebrated craft team set on a open stage with a polished wood designed by Alexander V. Nichols with chairs beds and tables that transform or rise from the floor. The lighting also designed by Nichols includes projections that tell the mystery of the couple as graphic roads keep the two together. The changes in mood keep the 90 minutes moving with sleek costumes by Meg Neville that keep Alex in earth tones, butcher store ware and Georgie in American scarfs and Levi pants. Brendan Aanes’ sound design is a ballet for each scene and costume change performed by the two on stage. The realism that matters on this open set is the inner charm of the two characters.

Georgie clearly wants something from Alex, it could be a con or just another version of love. "Heisenberg" looks at the effects strangers can have on one another. The treat is watching the stunning James Carpenter and Sarah Grace Wilson play this con game in a wonderful uncertain love story. More than worth it to see Carpenter and Wilson on stage this spring at ACT’s Geary Theatre, a season must see.

American Conservatory Theatre Presents


By Simon Stephens

Directed By Hal Brooks Featuring James Carpenter and Sarah Grace Wilson

Must close April 8th

Geary Stage

405 Geary Street, San Francisco.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (no intermission)

Tickets are available online at

Photos by Kevin Berne

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