My Heart Split in Two
nytheatre.com review by Akia Squitieri
September 8, 2005
With My Heart Split in Two, Lucid Theatre takes a retro tradition and gives it a new twist. Once upon a time, radio plays were an era’s TV and main form of entertainment. Now our generation has iPod and computermania to replace the days of radio. Lucid Theatre, per their press materials, is the first company to incorporate podcasts into a theatrical performance. Each week a new ten-minute segment will be available for audience and fans to download onto their iPods and computers. Viewers and listeners can also subscribe to the Lucid Theatre podcast on iTunes and automatically download the new installments as they become available.
The show/recording begins with a stoic announcer (Joe Thompson) who gives the exposition of “the demented insanity of My Heart Split in Two,” an audio play based on true events and “too ludicrous for any stage to support.” His promise of what's to come is in no way undelivered.
The play begins with four adventurers, Albert, David, Marcia, and Suzanne, landing on a remote mountain in Alaska. They arrive separately and go to their cabins. After Albert and David have warmed themselves by the fire, Albert realizes that David’s abandoned cabin has been occupied by another. Soon we are introduced to Claude the Crazy Mountain Man, who is David’s caretaker, and also madly in love with David. David then distracts Albert by informing him that within the nearby cabin reside two foxy ladies (Suzanne and Marcia) and that Alaska is a land for lovers. Albert rethinks the trip because “no woman has ever taken his little fry seriously.” After a series of random conversations between the two “almost friends,” a strange series of hot tub catastrophes, broken hearts, bizarre phone accidents, love affairs with snowmen, stolen hats, gooey injuries, stalkings, cold winds, and love affairs ensues.
Somehow amidst this downright insane plot, a story does evolve in one hilarious pratfall after another. Putting aside the wonderment of how playwright Terry Withers could actually think this stuff up, there is the masterful sound effects worked by the actors. Ben Arons's sound design is truly ingenious. The actors use everything from popsicle sticks and doorknobs to cellophane and cabbages to make the frequent noises and sound effects. The audience is separated from the actors by a Plexiglas window, behind which they perform at microphones, in the manner of an oldtime radio broadcast. Much like a group of children at a zoo, we sre riveted by what's happening on the other side of the glass.
The Announcer, played by Joe Thompson provides the requisite dry delivery and ironic smiles, with the right combination of 1950s telecaster and witty downtown edge to make the role complete. Cliff Campbell’s Albert is delightfully charming—a clueless half wit led to extreme measures to woo his almost lady love. Campbell has smart comedic timing and knows just when to pull back and when to push forward with the absurdist material in this production. Jason Linder, as Claude the Crazy Mountain Man, tackles his ridiculous lines and bizarre character with a hilarious gusto and charm. I am eager to see more of this quirky actor in future roles. Paul Murillo’s David supplies the perfect foil to Campbell’s Albert, with dead-on delivery of his many one-line zingers. Brenda Withers, plays Marcia with coy charm and skillful humor. Adrianne Dunbar (Suzanne) has striking stage presence and sly comedic wit.
Director Brendan Hughes has skillfully woven together a brilliant cast, edgy material and an innovative idea, culminating in a mind-boggling theatrical and listening adventure.