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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Eat Your Heart Out" Is Intriguing and Well-Acted but Lacking in Dramatic Resolution


Sarah Grodsky and Kate Eastwood Norris. Photo by Alan Simons.
Eat Your Heart Out

By Courtney Baron
Directed by Adam Greenfield

Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents copyright © 2012 Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.

In the publicity materials for her play Eat Your Heart Out (one of the entries at this year’s Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville), playwright Courtney Baron indicates that the play’s genesis stemmed from a New York Times article on Broken Heart Syndrome. That’s a medical condition in which stress is so extreme, or grief is so overwhelming, that it causes a chemical reaction in the body that can lead to a heart attack.

That is undeniably an interesting jumping-off point for a theater piece; all sorts of dramatic possibilities come to mind. Unfortunately, it is only given a perfunctory treatment in Baron’s new play, a comedic drama full of sitcom clich├ęs and a Tarantino-esque non-linear timeline that turns downbeat and ugly just before a completely unsatisfying, anti-climactic conclusion.

Four interconnected storylines comprise the plot, none of which are given a conclusion when the play ends abruptly: Social worker Nance (Kate Eastwood Norris) goes on a date with Tom (Alex Moggridge), a man she met online; Alice and Gabe (Kate Arrington and Mike DiSalvo), an attractive, upper-class young married couple, are meeting with Nance about a foreign adoption; Nance’s overweight and troubled daughter Evie (Sarah Grodsky) eats her feelings and can barely conceal that she’s falling in love with her best friend Colin (Jordan Brodess); and Colin struggles to maintain an increasingly one-sided long-distance relationship with his girlfriend who moved away.

All of these storylines, told completely non-chronologically, converge in the play’s shockingly bleak final minutes, building up to a final confrontation that we as the audience do not get to see. The play ends so abruptly, it literally feels like the power went out and you missed the end of a movie you’ve been watching for the last hour and a half!

As usual at Actors Theatre, on the production and technical side, the show is top-notch. The performers are all strong, with Norris and Moggridge’s scenes being particularly sweet-natured and memorable. Grodsky does her best with Evie, but she is done in by a script that makes the character so off-putting it is difficult to sympathize with her.

Your enjoyment of the play will depend a great deal on your tolerance for this kind of material. All in all not a bad production, but the script definitely needs work; reworking the ending (a play doesn’t have to have a happy ending, but it should at least have an ending) and a little more attention to Evie’s character would go a long way toward fixing what ails it.

Eat Your Heart Out

Featuring Kate Arrington, Jordan Brodess, Mike DiSalvo, Sarah Grodsky, Kate Eastwood Norris, and Alex Moggridge.

March 9-31


Part of the 36th Humana Festival of New American Plays


Actors Theatre of Louisville
Pamela Brown Auditorium
Third & Main Streets
Louisville, KY 40202
502-584-1205
ActorsTheatre.org

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