- CHARITY BENEFIT
The inevitable pain life heaps upon us and the lies we tell to stay alive are the themes in the World Premier of Sam Shepard’s new play Heartless at the Signature Theatre. Belonging to a family so immersed into their horrific existence, the preference would be to gaze into the abyss or nothing. After sitting through Heartless it is exactly what we have done, stared into nothing.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author who penned “Buried Child” and “A Lie of the Mind,” has turned cynical, bitter and disheartened. Taking place in a home in the hills high above Los Angeles, Sally (Claire Van Der Boom) brings home her documentary subject Roscoe (Gary Cole “The West Wing”), an expert on Latin-American authors, a wonderer who has left his wife and kids. For over 20 years she has had a murdered young girl’s heart beating inside her. We see this stem to sternum scar at the beginning of the play as the nude Sally exposes her raw pain both physically and mentally.
Enter Sally’s spinster and repressed sister Lucy (Jenny Bacon), their cantankerous disabled mother, Mable (Lois Smith), and her silent screaming nurse Elizabeth (Betty Gilpin).
After two hours, I still cannot tell you if Elizabeth is or isn’t the murdered reincarnation of the heart or if she is the only one alive to be left screaming. Characters try to escape, jump off rooftops and end up bloodied as characters sing, talk and stare into worlds unknown but no one communicates, including the author. Maybe that is the point.
I did like the ensemble acting and the direction by Daniel Aukin. I just wish I knew what it was I was supposed to get from seeing this play.
Signature Theatre 480 West 42nd Street until September 30th.