Review: Wide Awake Hearts (Tarragon Theatre)

If you suspect your best friend and your wife are in love with each other, what are you to do about it?

If you’re a successful screenwriter and producer you might just make a film where you cast the two as hot-and-heavy lovers.

Wide Awake Hearts is set staunchly in the world of film, and in being a play about film it is also intrinsically about theatre. It is about writing what you know, or what you think you know; it is about playing a part and trying and failing to divorce yourself from that part; it is about the exquisite manipulation of characters who just might be real people.

As the play opens, credits are projected as if it was a film. The graphics and music are reminiscent of a horror and you know that since you are unlikely to see pure genre on the stage, what you are about to witness will be dark and demented.

The stage is set as a tastefully upper class home set at a strange angle. The characters, generically names A, B, C and D, likewise come at each other from odd angles during the course of the show.

A, played by Gord Rand, is a successful screenwriter and producer who is so disillusioned by the industry that he is either on the edge of a nervous breakdown or mired in the midst of one.

B, played by Lesley Faulkner, is his wife who has been with him since they were both unknown and in theatre school and she is acutely aware that she might still be unknown if A didn’t cast her in all his movies.

C, played by Raoul Bhaneja, is A’s best and oldest friend, who has known them both since they were unknown and has loved B the entire time. He disappeared from the industry for a while, in all likelihood to deal with the demon of loving his best friend’s wife. He has returned now only because A has invested much for him to be the lead in his newest film. This is a romance role, with a lot of sex scenes, opposite A’s wife B.

D, played by Maev Beaty, is an editor who A brings in at the last minute to work on the film. A claims not to be aware that D has a past relationship with C, but who is he really fooling?

This is the spider’s web that A brings all his little flies into: except that A can’t help but be caught in the resulting machinations himself. He is, after all, very emotionally invested and not a little unstable.

The dialogue is fast-paced and cutting. It’s not realism – it’s a little noir, it’s very theatrical and/or filmic. It’s adeptly on-point for the mediums and genres this script straddles.

There was one monologue I could have lived without: it’s hardly ever interesting to hear a character go on about their dreams. I also heard some of the audience wondering about the point of the sudden murderous violence near the end of the play. I can see it as both metaphor and projection on the part of the character, but I agree that a slow-burn could have been more effective.

The very final scene, however, was perfect.

Details

-Playing until December 12 at Tarragon Theatre, in the Extra Space, 30 Bridgeman Ave

-Tuesday to Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday matinees at 2:30 pm and a Saturday matinee at 2:30 pm on November 27th

-Tickets are $23-$44, Fri & Sun rush $10

-Boc Office at 416.531.1827 or http://www.tarragontheatre.com/tickets/.

Image of Lesley Faulkner, Raoul Bhaneja by Cylla von Tiedemann.

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