The Uncertainty of the Human Condition

. October 10, 2018.
Kate Abu-Absi and Dennie Sherer in Heisenberg, a play by British writer Simon Stephens.
Kate Abu-Absi and Dennie Sherer in Heisenberg, a play by British writer Simon Stephens.

In 1927, German physicist Werner Heisenberg introduced his most famous theory, the Uncertainty Principle. The basic idea is that it is impossible to measure multiple properties of an object— position and movement, for example— simultaneously.

In 2015, British playwright Simon Stephens released Heisenberg, a two-person show which expanded on the principle to the basics of human interaction.

In the play, a younger woman— all bustle and energy— spots an older man on a train platform, and suddenly kisses him on the cheek, setting off a very funny but touching scenario examining the way people relate to each other— and how you can never really know what the impact of those moments can be.

Static and movement

“This relationship is about the unlikely uncertainty of these two people in this particular circumstance,” said director Barbara Barkan. “One, at one time, represents the static, stationary, while the other is all wave and movement, (and how) that wave and movement . . . impacts the other.”

Barkan is directing a staged reading of Heisenberg on behalf of Actors Collaborative Toledo (ACT) at Trinity Episcopal Church on October 19 and 20, beginning at 8 pm.

“I do a lot of play-reading committee work for both the Village Players and Actors Collaborative, and have served on those committees,” Barkan said. “So consequently, we read a lot of the plays. I probably read a hundred, two hundred plays a year, just in anticipation of possibly producing them locally. We came across Heisenberg a couple of years ago, and it sort of remained on our to-do list for ACT. So the time was right, and it fit the bill for the ACT season.”

Complex and simple

ACT has long featured staged readings of plays and Barkan said finding a show like Heisenberg is a blessing for the group.

“It’s fascinating, the way it was written, and the contrast between the two characters. Which is really good for ACT to find a play like this. Because not all plays were meant to be read, and put in a reader’s theater sort of scenario. This one is, because it’s all about the movements of these characters— sometimes complex, sometimes extremely simple. It’s really a textured play about these two people, and really the impact that people have on each other,” Barkan said.

Although the show will be read by the actors— the production stars area theater veterans Kate Abu-Absi and Dennie Sherer as Georgie and Alex, respectively— Barkan said they are still taking the rehearsal process seriously as they prepare for production.

“I’m working with two very seasoned actors, but this play has some complexity, some transitional, sort of interesting quirks that need to be addressed,” Barkan said.

Forever unknown

Heisenberg’s principle tells us that there will always be a degree to which something about life will be unknown. Barkan hopes that audiences come away with a similar conclusion about the people we meet every day. “What people can take away from this is, to value the impact that people have on your life, and what it could teach you. The surprising effects of an encounter. To value what you can be taught, what you can learn.”

$10 | 8pm | Friday-Saturday, October 19-20
Trinity Episcopal Church, 316 Adams St.
419-205-0409 |