Sunday, October 19, 2003

The Domino Heart (Dobama)

Dobama's 'THE DOMINO HEART' is a must see!

Dobama Theatre’s production of Matthew Edison’s ‘THE DOMINO HEART’ is everything good theatre should be. The play is well written and carries a potent message. The acting is superb. Joyce Casey’s directing is concept perfect.

Interestingly, the script is everything that they teach a scribe never to do in playwriting classes. The script is made up completely of monologues. The actors never appear on stage at the same time and never directly interact with each other. To add to the unusual concept, there is no action, little humor, and no great dramatic scenes. It is a quiet play.

In an interview about the script, which he wrote in 10 days, Matthew Edison indicated that he sees “the monologues not as undramatic declarations but as the sort of inner dialogue we all experience when trying to work out an emotional problem.” He went on to say, "I used to be quite surprised how close you can come just using imagination and common sense." Because of the way the play unfolded in the writing process, Edison, whose original intention was to make this a traditional interactive script, fortunately never rewrote it.

The ‘DOMINO HEART’ consists of three characters connected to each other by one transplanted heart. There's a grieving and conflicted woman whose husband has been killed in a car accident, a well intentioned reverend awaiting the heart salvaged from the crash, and a souless, almost heartless ad executive who gets the vital instrument through the domino process in which, if the original transplant doesn’t work, the organ is passed along to another patient.

The play's central symbol offers plenty of opportunity to deal with emotions, love and other matters of the heart. In one particularly effective section, the reverend describes a volunteer program to help babies born with drug addictions. They're soothed by strangers who hold them close to their hearts.

A review of the play’s first performance, which took place in March of 2003 states, “You know you're watching something special when 90 coughless, fidgetless minutes go by as quickly -- to borrow an image reworked in Matthew Edison's luminous first play -- as a heartbeat.” The same can be said of Dobama’s U. S premiere production. It appears effortless. It flows, you become involved, the actors aren’t acting, they are speaking to you. You get entrapped in the experience.

Edison's words are performed by a trio of actors who couldn't be better. Carla Dunlavey, as the wife who is emotionally ripped apart by her role in the events leading up to her husband's death, presents a perfectly textured performance. We feel with her, we mourn with her, we wish things could be different. She has total control of the character.

The veteran Glenn Colerider, who is noted for his fine acting, outdoes himself as the Reverend.

Fabio Polanco as the self-destructive ad exec horrifies us with his dead-eyed, seen-it-all smugness that hides his real fear. As he writhes on the floor in emotional and physical pain we don’t know whether to rush up and help him, or hate him for receiving a heart that could have gone to someone who deserves it, would value it, would give it purpose.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Dobama’s production, under the deft guidance of Joyce Casey, is quiet but powerful. It will stay with you long after you leave the theatre. Put this play and production on your must see list!