Portraying the mess of life
Claire Hesselgrave as D in Wide Awake Hearts. (photo by Eric Chad)
“I want love. I want only love,” confesses C, a playboy, amid a lengthy list of his shortcomings. A rare, vulnerable moment of honesty? Or is he merely reciting his lines in a movie scene?
Such is the nature of Wide Awake Hearts by Brendan Gall, now playing at Little Mountain Gallery. One is never certain of what is real, or personal, and what is being acted for public consumption.
Of course, being a play, everything is scripted and for entertainment, however, within Wide Awake Hearts are four characters whose professional and personal lives overlap to an indistinguishable degree. Apparently named according to when they first speak/appear, A (Sean Harris Oliver) is married to B (Genevieve Fleming) and he hires his best friend C (Robert Salvador) to perform opposite her in a new movie that he has written and is producing. By the time D (Claire Hesselgrave) arrives on the scene to replace a recently fired editor, the tensions are high, and the line between what is part of the film and what is “actually” happening between the characters is well and truly blurred.
Despite being an editor, part of whose job, as D states, is to make sense out of the senseless, D’s presence only adds to reality’s murkiness. First of all, editors can only work with what they are given, what’s been shot; they can’t create anything, she explains, they can only interpret. And she’s not an objective outsider, which makes her job that much more difficult. D has been in a long-running on-and-off-again relationship with C. Meanwhile, C is in love with B, and A is jealous of what he believes is happening between C and B. As D laments, “Sometimes, the mess wins.”
That mess is life, not Wide Awake Hearts, which is a sharply written, insightful play. Tempers and desires run hot and C’s confession is one of the few quiet, calm moments that, along with the occasional biting (funny) comment, break the tension. Each character has a monologue that also serves to narrow the focus, slowing the pace before it once again ramps up.
All four actors do an excellent job of working in the intimate space of Little Mountain Gallery, sometimes a foot or two away from the audience as they perform, for example, a raucous sex scene. Director Brian Cochrane and stage manager Breanne Jackson deserve kudos for that, too, as does Sabrina Evertt for her set and props, as well as for her costumes; sound designer Jay Clift’s work is only noticeable when it should be. For the most part, everything comes together such that being in the audience is like being a voyeur, part of the action yet removed from it.
The production team being so small, it would a shame not to mention Eric Chad (projection designer), whose talents could have been exploited more; assistant director Jamie King; and publicity and front of house, Angie Descalzi. This combined Hardline Productions and Twenty Something Theatre effort, in which everyone involved seems to be doing double or even triple duty, delivers as much or more than many larger, more flush productions.
Wide Awake Hearts is at Little Mountain Gallery, 195 East 26th Ave., until Dec. 20, Tues-Sat, 8 p.m. Tickets are $22 plus service charge from brownpapertickets.com, with $15 matinées Dec. 13, 14 and 20, 2 p.m. For more information about the production companies, visit hardlineproductions.ca and twentysomethingtheatre.com.