PORT ANGELES — Up she walks to the stranger. Onto his neck she plants a kiss.
Meet Georgie Burns, a sexy, middle-aged receptionist with one heck of a story to tell. She and Alex Priest, the Irishman who, at 75, has long been single, are about to go on a trajectory in “Heisenberg,” opening at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse tonight.
Quick side trip: the Heisenberg principle, named for German physicist Werner Heisenberg, asserts that even if you know the position of something, you can’t be certain of where or how fast it’ll go.
With a pair such as Alex and Georgie, all you can do is hold on to your theater seat. After her kiss on his neck, they have a moment of weirdness; then an encounter at his workplace; then a date. And much more as they travel across space and time.
In this Port Angeles production, director Jim Dries has two casts playing it out: Anna Andersen and Pat Owens on this opening weekend and Mindy Gelder and Michael Aldrich next week. The pairs then alternate performances through the play’s close March 11.
“Heisenberg,” written by Simon Stephens, is loaded with adult situations and four-letter words. The latter come largely from Georgie, a motor-mouth without a filter.
Andersen and Gelder had different reactions to their character: Georgie repelled Gelder at first, but then, as she got deeper into the story, things changed.
“Her most notable personality features are ones I’ve worked really hard to not feed,” Gelder said.
Which features are those?
“Impulsivity, insecurity, the lying,” Gelder said.
But that’s not all there is to Georgie, of course.
“She is incredibly emotional,” said Andersen, adding that whenever Georgie starts to feel unhappy, she takes the conversation on an immediate left turn. Yet with Alex, she finds another way to be.
“He gives her grounding,” Owens said.
“She gives him life.
“He’s been so inside of himself for so long; he hasn’t really had a relationship since his early 20s,” the actor noted.
“The whole randomness thing” starts up this new liaison when he least expects it.
“We have some of the same fears,” Owens said of Alex.
“We’re both single guys who live alone,” and while the actor is 10 years younger than his character, Owens knows that feeling of zing when a younger woman pays him attention.
Alex keeps Georgie at bay, but then, as he lets her in a little, he’s drawn to her and her quirks.
Aldrich, for his part, added that the play hurtles forward on “infinite variables that keep combining. Alex was very isolated and he became vulnerable. Just when you think you have everything in the palm of your hand, something from the outside changes it.
“Uncertainty,” Aldrich said, “is thrilling.”
The four performers agree: Having two casts adds more variables.
“I wasn’t expecting to have this much chemistry with [Owens],” Andersen said.
“It will be two different shows, for sure,” Gelder added.
Neither set has discussed their characters nor watched the others rehearse. Both pairs, said Dries, bring their own takes.
Dries, who has directed and appeared in productions across and beyond the North Olympic Peninsula, is directing his first Port Angeles Community Players show.
He’s engaged two American sign language interpreters, Alonna Watson and Sophia Sexton, to sign throughout the 2 p.m. March 4 performance.
Talkbacks, discussions of the play, are set for 2 p.m. both March 4 and March 11.
Both Dries and Gelder relish “Heisenberg” for another reason: With its adult content and relative newness — the play opened in New York City in 2015 — it’s unusual fare for the Port Angeles playhouse.
For Gelder, it paid to keep an open mind as she embarked on the script, spiced as it is with colorful language.
“Now, I can very much relate to Georgie,” she said. “She’s a real person … I think the larger point of all this is that people are not what you think they are.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Townsend.