After being famed for its performances in New York, Forward Theater Company’s Heisenberg opened in Madison for the first time Jan. 17.
When the show began, the stage was set with a simple London train station bench.
The set is simple, but the characters bring the show to life. In the talkback following the show, director Laura Gordon said the set was something she felt needed to be changed per scene by the characters themselves, rather than the crew. Even so, the New York performances of Heisenberg were produced with a more elaborate set. It was up to Gordon to choose a simpler one.
Gordon felt the scene changes help tell a story within the transitions, which they do. Even during the simple act of moving a table, the personalities of Alex and Georgie are clearly noted by the audience.
The only two characters in the show are Alex, played by James Pickering, and Georgie, played by Colleen Madden.
Georgie is a dreamer and Alex is a giver. The two have lived different lives, but both have experienced the hardship of loving those whom they have loved. As they try to piece together their lives and find acceptance in what they have, the characters cross paths and start a whole new adventure.
The show starts as Georgie kisses the back of Alex’s neck, which she claims an accident, excusing herself for misunderstanding him as her deceased husband. Alex, who is taken aback by Georgie’s bubbly and straightforward personality, leaves the train station despite Georgie’s requests for him to stay.
What continues on to be a friendship quickly turns into an unusual romance. With almost a 30-year age difference, Georgie and Alex bond over the stories of those they’ve lost. A lot of the time, Georgie’s elaborate stories are met with silence or a short response from Alex, who remains calm throughout most of Georgie’s hyper explanations.
The show is named after the German physicist Werner Heisenberg, who discovered the theory of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics discusses the physical properties of nature and energy.
Gordon explained the title is a metaphor to show the relationship between Alex and Georgie. She said a person cannot simultaneously know where a particle is in space and where it is moving. She describes the quantum mechanics metaphor as an “ally” to human relationships.
The two characters end up hurting each other on separate occasions, but they still can’t be apart. While they chase each other across a series of emotions, the audience learns more about the characters and how their past evolved their personalities.
In the talkback, the actors expressed their feelings about the show and the characters they played.
“I love[d] the play as soon as I read it,” Pickering said. “It’s just so damn good.”
Madden, on the other hand, wasn’t fond of the script and her character when she initially read it.
Madden felt like Georgie was not a character she could emphasize with until she dove more deeply into the script.
“I realized how broken she was…and how much she got from [Alex], and not just how much he got from her,” Madden said.
Madden felt her character evolved a lot throughout the show, as did Pickering. Pickering also said the actors learn from the audience based on the audience’s response to the scenes, like laughter and sighs of “aw,” as the audience did multiple times.
Pickering said the show is not one that has completion, even in the last scene. He said the show constantly reveals something new, and he said one must keep doing things until they cannot.
The show gives the honest and brutal reality of having loved and lost, and the struggle of falling into and out of love. The stunning performance by Pickering, Madden and Gordon takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster of happiness and heartache that may leave them in tears.
It should be warned that profanity is used during the show and that ages 15 and above are suggested for attendance. The show, which was written by playwright Simon Stephens, will be playing at the Overture Center until Feb. 3.