American playwright Ken Jaworowski has structured a play through a series of monologues that identify a crucial moment in a human relationship – as the title suggests – a moment that goes Straight to the Heart.
In the first set of monologues, Pulse, we are introduced to three characters who offer an account of the ‘father’ and the power of parental influence in a child’s life. The first character, Diane (Nadia Shash), recounts a scenario of devotion and sacrifice; the second, Charles (Alistair Brown), the surprise of unconditional love; the third, Ron (Daniel Simpson), an offer of a helping hand and its consequences. Each monologue is delivered in a spotlight of isolation, each character unaware of the other’s presence.
One to the Head, One to the Heart, introduces us to a married couple, Aaron and Beth, who are polar opposites in temperament. Each trusts us enough to disclose their history and to reveal the pain and complications of their present circumstance. They are parents to a child with a debilitating illness, one that guarantees she will not live beyond adolescence. The wife (Nadia Shash), is saccharine sweet and unable to recognise the troubling aspects of her husband’s torment.
Her story borders on truth telling, but not quite. During the course of their monologues, Aaron and Beth remain unaware of each other, a structure that works well to reflect their alienation, but there is a static aspect to their revelations – something not quite believable – and character development begins to wear thin. Aaron (Daniel Simpson), lets us know that he was a vicious geezer in his youth – more ruthless than the ‘baddest daddy’ in the neighbourhood – but forget all that, somehow he’s earned his doctorate and is a university professor. Aaron is totally believable as someone with a criminal past – albeit with righteous reasoning – but the sense that he would bow down to the pressures of academia and take up a place in the halls of learning, never comes through. This is not to say that someone who is a master of thuggery cannot also earn a Master’s Degree, but to say that the character of Aaron is the most complex and Simpson, and director Alex Dmitriev, must find this aspect in the script. At the moment, it is used as a ploy to mirror a strength that is shared between father and child – one that will override all obstacles and doubt. In this sense, we are left with an ‘American style’ interpretation of life. If you’re given a lemon, make lemonade, there is nothing sour about life.
The third set of monologues, The Truth Tellers, is the weakest of the three. It’s an oversimplified TV-like version of ‘boy meets girl, boy loses girl’, boy just might win girl after all. This is not to say that the actors Nadia Shash and Alistair Brown, do not do the best with imbuing their characters with a sense of longing and desire in life – they do – but there is little substance to the plot. And it is an instance where the structure of monologue falls apart. These two characters might have become believable if they were allowed to speak to one another, ie, slip out of monologue and into dialogue, but this benefit was not afforded to them and their characters suffer for it.
All three actors were superb and brought the air of an American upbringing with them. If playwright Jaworowski is interested in developing any of the monologues into a full-length play, then the possibilities rest with One to the Head, One to the Heart.
Review by Loretta Monaco
Three provocative and heart-felt short plays by American playwright, Ken Jaworowski. Pulse – One to the Head, One to the Heart – The Truth Tellers – in each play the characters’ alternating monologues lead you on an unexpected journey.
Pulse – a son tells of confronting his father about his sexuality; a father teaches his son to stand up to bullies with lasting consequences and a daughter takes her father on one last trip.
One to the Head One to the Heart – a father’s dream of a large family is set aside by the financial burden of caring for a disabled child, or is it?
The Truth Tellers – a night out for two lonely people, will their lies keep them apart?
Alistair Brown, Nadia Shash and Daniel Simpson, under the direction of Alex Dmitriev, perform in each of the three plays.
Ken Jaworowski is a staff editor for The New York Times. His play Acts of Redemption recently appeared at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, while Believers, directed by Alex Dmitriev, was produced by the Workshop Theater Company in New York. Other plays include Never Missed a Day, Certain Souls and Interchange, which has been published by Broadway Play Publishing.
Alistair Brown’s recent credits include Mr Perks in The Railway Children (National Tour). Nadia Shash trained at Birmingham School of Acting, and her recent credits include: The Bible (Shakespeare’s Globe), As You Like It and The Taming of the Shrew (Cambridge Shakespeare Festival), Much Ado About Nothing (The Scoop), The Wrong Sleep (Cock Tavern) and Stovepipe (HighTide/Bush Theatre/National Theatre). Daniel Simpson trained at East 15 and The Actor Works. Theatre credits include: Doonreagan (Jermyn Street Theatre), London Road (National Theatre) and Driving Miss Daisy (Julian Stonman UK – National Tour).
Alex Dmitriev, a New York based freelance director, has worked at regional theaters across the United States and Canada. His work in NYC has been at The Actors’ Studio, The York Theater Co. Irish Rep and the Abingdon Theater Company among others. In London, he directed Doonreagan (Jermyn Street Theatre) about Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and his mistress, Assia Wevill.
STRAIGHT TO THE HEART
Above the Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JB
Ticket price: £12/£10 concession
Box office: 020 7836 8463
Play dates: 10th October – 28th October 2016
Monday to Friday 1.00pm
Running time: 75 minutes