Wide Awake Hearts

Sean Harris Oliver and Claire Hesselgrave Credit: Sabrina Evertt
Sean Harris Oliver and Claire Hesselgrave
Credit: Sabrina Evertt

At Little Mountain Gallery (26th & Main) until December 20, 2014

Posted December 7, 2014

Brian Cochrane, the director of Wide Awake Hearts, clarified a couple of things after this review was posted. Character D is not the film director, she is the film editor. Cochrane writes, “In the final scene the editor is watching footage of the two actors in post-production. That’s why she says things like “Unuseable. Note for production: why did you print this?””. In the play’s blurring of real time/film time, I missed it. 

Does she or doesn’t she? ‘B’, an actress, is married to ‘A’, a screenwriter, who fears his wife is in love with ‘C’, his old best friend who’s an actor that used to have a thing going on with ‘D’, a film director. Why, fergawdsake, doesn’t playwright Brendan Gall give them names? And does B love C, the husband’s old friend? Or does she love A, her husband? I don’t know and I didn’t find out.

It’s really difficult watching a hard-working, talented cast pour their hearts into a script that isn’t worth the effort. There are too many unsupported motivations to count. Here’s the short list:

  • Why would A, the screenwriter, cast his wife and his badboy best friend as illicit lovers in a film he’s producing when he suspects the friend is “fucking” his wife? Or will end up sleeping with her?
  • Why would A write frantic, tearing-their-clothes-off sex scenes between the wife and friend (a smoker) and then accuse his wife of infidelity saying she “tastes like cigarettes”?
  • Why, oh why, does A try to strangle D when they’re having it off? Why are they having sex in the first place?
  • Why does D, the film director, make the wife and the badboy actor do more than a dozen takes of the last scene in the movie – a passionate goodbye kiss – and not react? Couldn’t the actors expect a, “Now why don’t you try it this way?” or something? What kind of perverse pleasure is D getting?
Genevieve Fleming and Robert Salvador Credit: Eric Chad
Genevieve Fleming and Robert Salvador
Credit: Eric Chad

Brian Cochrane, director and associate artistic producer of Twenty Something Theatre, loves this play but I just didn’t find this script, in his words, “hilarious and heartbreaking”. But he puts his cast through their paces and they don’t fail him. Genevieve Fleming, as the wife, is beautiful and beautifully conflicted. B appears to love her husband but he’s such a screw-up, we can only wonder why she loves him. The intimate scenes Fleming does, as the character on camera, with the lover/smoker/husband’s best friend, are steamy. We don’t know if B is a good actress or really has a thing for C. When is B being B and when is B being the character in the film within the play? Why, in god’s name, can’t these characters have names?

Robert Salvador is supersexy as C, the husband’s friend. Without being explicit, we know the character has been through the wringer – drugs? Alcohol? Jail? Salvador looks just rough enough to be attractive to B but not rough enough to turn her off. As a polar opposite to B’s husband, Salvador is great.

Sean Harris Oliver is A, the husband, and he’s the most difficult to wrap your head around. Is he stupid or is he manipulative? Has he set this whole thing up to test his wife? If so, what a jerk. If not, what an idiot. And spouting lines like, “We are, all of us, dying every day”, does not convince us that he’s a big thinker.

Robert Salvador and Sean Harris Oliver Credit: Eric Chad
Robert Salvador and Sean Harris Oliver
Credit: Eric Chad

Claire Hesselgrave, who lit a fire under Twenty Something’s Speech & Debate back in 2013, is the edgy film director in Wide Awake Hearts. However, other than making B and C do all that kissing at the end, I don’t know what she’s doing in this play. But she gets a couple of good lines: “I don’t like to drink alone. I’ll do it but I don’t like it.” And, “Have you fucked him yet? You’d better watch for that.”

The other best line goes to Fleming when B’s messed-up husband tries to have sex with her after she’s been doing take after take of sex scenes with C. On her back with her skirt hitched up, she says, as an excuse for not being overly enthusiastic, “I’ve sort of been doing this all day.”

Twenty Something Theatre pairs up with Hardline Productions on this one. Might work better for twenty or thirty-somethings. And there’s good work here. Wide Awake Hearts won’t put you to sleep but life-imitating-art-imitating-life – or whatever – has been done before and much better.

Claire Hesselgrave Credit: Eric Chad
Claire Hesselgrave
Credit: Eric Chad