|Becky Byers, August Schulenburg|
Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum
Author Adam Szymkowicz has written an extremely funny script that alternates long lyrical monologues with staccato noir-ish one-liners. It's both poignant and hysterical when Dr. X, speaking of his long-lost love, explains, "And we drank and we drank and we went to my place and we made love like normal people." And then there's this exchange, between a cardiologist with a (literally) broken heart and a cheery femme fatale:
PETER: When they saw you, I felt all their hearts stop for a second. They all skipped a beat. Something about your eyes or your lips or the way you walk. Something about your shoulder or your hair or the color of your skin. Something inside you, just below the surface: a musical, a roller coaster, a sledgehammer.This is dialogue that could easily be overdone, hyper-camped-up, but director Kelly O'Donnell keeps the goings-on at exactly the right level of restrained insanity. The physical comedy is brilliant, thanks to O'Donnell and fight director Adam Swiderski. I won't give any examples--they would all be spoilers--but I will tell you that the audience laughed pretty much continuously throughout the fight scenes.
LISA: I used to work in construction, but too many men fell to their deaths.
PETER: What do you do now?
LISA: They pay me to stay away from all the construction sites in the city.
PETER: They pay you not to work?
LISA: It‘s not fulfilling.
And then there is the amazing cast. The wonderful playwright August Schulenburg gives a perfect performance as Dr. X, making him both creepy and perversely likeable. His sister Marnie Schulenburg is also excellent as the femme fatale, a woman who wants to be appreciated for how she looks and for what she accomplishes. Susan Louise O'Connor's open-mouthed crying is brilliant; Becky Byers, Rachael Hip-Flores, and Aja Houston kick ass as the crime fighters; and Chinaza Uche is sweet at the doctor who wants to save the world.
A couple of teeny-tiny complaints: the music before the show is annoying and doesn't set the right tone, at least to my middle-aged ears, and it's close to impossible to understand what the DJ says. And maybe the show could be tightened a bit. But, again, these are just details. All in all Hearts Like Fists is fabulous and smart fun.
(press ticket; second row center)