Eat Your Heart Out by Courtney Baron
Directed by Adam Greenfield
Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville
Through April 1, 2012
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The synopsis: Alice and Gabe are desperate to adopt a child. Nance, a single mom just starting to date, struggles to connect with her teenage daughter Evie. And Evie wishes her best friend Colin could fall for her rather than just trying to fix things. With both humor and aching insight, these lives are woven together in a tale of parental hopes and fears, and of hearts consumed by longing."
Courtney Baron's Eat Your Heart Out starts as a fast-paced and somewhat superficial comedy but eventually turns into something much more serious and even tragic. It's a show that begins with a series of declarations but ends with a question. Adam Greenfield's direction is crisp and brisk—perhaps a bit too much so, resulting an a rapid-fire exchange of dialog that might be more appropriate for video than live theatre. Still, it's a play and a production that provided much fodder for discussion in the bar afterwards and ultimately deals with very real issues of pain, rejection, and the difficulty of real-world love, even if it does sometimes feel more like the unfinished first act of a more substantial work.
Any reservations about the script do not, however, extend to the performers, all of whom were fine. Kate Eastwood Norris is all edgy energy as Nance and while Alex Moggridge's Tom was a bit bland, that appears to be exactly what the script calls for. Sarah Grodsky showed a heartbreaking vulnerability as Evie. Jordan Brodess brought out all the pain and flip attitude of Colin. Kate Arrington and Mike DiSalvo was a great team as the increasingly desperate Alice and Gabe, whom Nance treats with far less sympathy than they seem to deserve.
Upon reflection, I'm not sure that Eat Your Heart Out is quite ready for prime time yet. As it stands, the characters aren't as fully realized as they could be and something really needs to be done with that ending. Still, it shows promise, and that's part of what Humana is about.
Join in the discussion on Twitter with the #hf36 hash tag and follow me @clavazzi. Look for Joan Lipkin's reviews at The Vital Voice.