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Aging, sexuality at heart of TheatreWorks play at UCCS

September 6, 2017 Updated: September 8, 2017 at 2:16 pm
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Lawrence Pressman and Prentiss Benjamin star in TheatreWorks' production of "Heisenberg." It opens Thursday and runs through Sept. 24. Courtesy TheatreWorks.

How would you react if a free-spirited stranger decades younger than you surreptitiously kissed the back of your neck in a crowded train station?

That's perhaps the first question that British playwright Simon Stephens' 2015 "Heisenberg" will make you ponder, but it's certainly not the last.

Many like to describe the 70-minute, two-person play as a romance, but that's not the word director Joye Cook-Levy would use.

"Calling it a romance is a little cliché," she said. "It doesn't feel like a romance. It feels like two souls who have been lost for a very long time, and they couldn't imagine it was going to work, but what does working even mean? These two people manage to pull each other out of city loneliness. Two Londoners absorbed in their fantasy worlds. It's beautiful."

Prentiss Benjamin will star in TheatreWorks' production of "Heisenberg." It opens Thursday and runs through Sept. 24. Courtesy TheatreWorks. 

Veteran actor Lawrence Pressman, whose TV and film credits include "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Doogie Howser, M.D." and "Mad Men" will star opposite Prentiss Benjamin, another longtime actor who recently moved to Colorado Springs. It opens Thursday at TheatreWorks and runs through Sept. 23.

"Heisenberg" opened off-Broadway in 2015 and on Broadway the following year, with both productions starring Mary-Louise Parker and Denis Arndt. It's the story of what happens after a 40-something American woman inserts herself into the life of an Irish butcher in his 70s.

"On its surface, it's a satisfyingly sentimental, life-affirming mating dance between two people who are so utterly dissimilar that of course they are made for each other. But if you choose to tune into the quieter frequencies of 'Heisenberg,' you'll detect the presence of a probing work that considers the multiplicity of alternatives that could shape our lives at every moment," wrote critic Ben Brantley in The New York Times in 2015.

Any lovers involved in a May-December relationship must surely discuss at some point the inevitability of the loss of the older partner. It's a part of the show that Cook-Levy, whose background is in intergenerational theater, appreciates. That, and the playwright's uninhibited willingness to delve into aging and sexuality.

"It's surprising what can be new at the end," she said, "and that there's still something that will take you off your tracks and take you in a different direction. We vanish sexually as we age in the greater public. We don't imagine it's possible, that it's a piece of us that dies out or dries up or gets buried, and it doesn't. It may not be something that we talk about, but it doesn't go away for some folks. As we get better at looking at the world with better gender and class lenses, age is a concept we need to consider."

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