Heartbreaker unlikely to break hearts

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

Amidst the gunshots and tales of sanity, with a dash of humour, lies a play: Heartbreaker, a new play by Morwyn Bebner.

For this debut, the projector was not working. The backdrop was a simple colour of blue, allowing the audience to focus on the dialogue and interaction between the characters. This served well, because Heartbreaker is dense with dialogue, metaphors and multiple stories told within poetic language.

The play opens to three characters on stage, Ellen (Lindsay Burns) a newspaper reporter and Eve (Kira Bradley) a student, are seemingly having separate therapy sessions with Dr. Bilk (Christian Goutsis) while the garbage strike is on in the City of Toronto. The doctor sits in the middle, the patients on either side of him, and the audience gets to peer into these meetings, while the characters discuss various events and feelings.  We hear about how Eve thinks that her father killed her mother and how Ellen’s mother thought that liking things was the opposite of discipline. There is the hilarious incidents of Eve breaking into the monstrous house next door and performing appalling acts and Ellen’s thoughts on getting drunk and swimming laps. As the sessions progress, Eve keeps chattering, her thoughts pouring out at an overwhelming speed as Ellen becomes quiet, reading a Moby Dick and ignoring Dr. Bilk’s questions. This seems to pique Dr. Bilk’s interest and he probes more at Ellen and dismisses Eve saying she has an inability to be reasoned with.

We then meet Eve’s sister Helen (Jamie Konchak) who strolls into Dr. Bilk’s office, clad in sunglasses, red shoes and sparkly socks. She professes that she isn’t dramatic and that Eve’s story about being bitten by a dog is actually her story and that’s all she came in to say. As the audience struggles to keep up with the meaning of the multiple tales presented, everyone decides to escape the piling garbage and go to a remote cabin owned by Eve and her family.

Eve, Helen and their father Donald (Duval Lang) drive up to the cabin where it is revealed that Donald is supposed to be on house arrest. At the cabin, Dr. Bilk wants to sever his doctor patient relationship with Ellen to start a sexual one, there is talk of a motorized dock, more on Eve and Helen’s mother, and a storm rattles the small cottage.

Amongst the chaos of characters talking without any semblance of logic or connection, as they reveal their lies and truths, and as they don’t listen or respond to each other, there is one compelling moment in this mess of a narrative. Ellen and Dr. Bilk decide to have a session in which it is revealed that while in Guatamala she lost the baby she was going to adopt and was alienated from her husband. Her turmoil is nicely depicted as she describes the punishing waves of the ocean and the estrangement of the stars.

Ellen then wanders off with a gun and as a gunshot rings out, this would be a great opportunity for the play to focus and pull the elements together. But the storylines continues, aimlessly wandering towards its conclusion.

Heartbreaker is full of comedic lines and insightful thoughts but the disconnection between them ultimately alienates the viewer. It fails to create a strong connection to its audience and make use of its talented cast. Perhaps it is the kind of piece that requires multiple viewings, but the overarching narrative is unlikely to break hearts.

Heartbreaker is part of Alberta Theatre Projects’ Enbridge playRites Festival. Tickets are available at the door or at atplive.com

Photo: L to R: Duval Lang, Jamie Konchak and Kira Bradley
Credit: Trudie Lee

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