by Matthew Edison
Section 8 Productions
1440 W. 12th Ave.
This play certainly has its heart in the right place. In four
monologues first-time Toronto playwright Matthew Edison follows
the progress of a transplanted heart from a man who dies in a
car crash--his grieving wife has the first and last monologue--to
an older preacher to a hotshot young advertising exec. Some of
the things they tell us are that the grief of a survivor is a
life sentence, "never take love for granted," "live
life as if you're dying because you are," and "the
heart is a muscle--exercise it." Unfortunately, the writing
rarely rises above the greeting card quality of these truisms.
Despite a couple of skilled and energetic performances, there's
not a whole lot here to be learned about love, grief, caring,
guilt, responsibility or any of the many other ethical issues
the play tries to force-feed us. And Craig Hall's Section 8 production
provides little of theatrical interest to sugar-coat the pill.
The most entertaining and palatable of the monologues is that
of the preacher as he awaits his transplant. Tom Pickett plays
him as sweet-natured, loving and filled with evangelical fervour.
His story about holding sick babies is the most compelling element
in the play. But even he is guilt-stricken over the suicide of
a childhood friend, and that emotion dominates the other two
characters' presentations. The wife's grief over her husband's
death is infused with her guilt over a long-ago affair that she
feels might have precipitated the crash, leaving Gwynyth Walsh
not much more to play than a single emotional note. The advertising
executive who has had a heart attack at 33 and gets no pleasure
out of making $70,000 in three minutes of semi-legal arbitrage
is rendered with ferocious cynicism by Rick Dobran. But the
playwright's explanation for his anger and guilt is barely credible.
And the Mametesque dialogue lacks the kind of harsh poetry that
Mamet makes out of street talk and professional jargon. Edison's
prose rarely rises above the prosaic.
The conventions of the play require that the characters speak
directly to the audience with no real stage business or any explanation
as to who they think they're talking to. Director Craig Hall
does little more than move the actors around the tiny Pacific
Theatre space and modulate their rhythms. The one significant
theatrical element is the live cello of Shanto Bhattacharya.
Integrating live music and stage action has become characteristic
of a lot of our most interesting small-theatre work. Here, however,
the cello is used mainly to cover the transitions between monologues.
Altogether a disappointing turn for a company that has established
itself as one of the more exciting alternative voices in the