[Editor's Note: This is the eighth in a series of roundups on the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival.]
There's an undeniable electricity that flows through playwright James Asmus' dialogue from the first scene of Hearts Full of Blood, at HERE Arts Center, where we're introduced to a happily married couple, Jacob (Gary Tiedemann) and Alison (Sarah Gitenstein) and their two single friends, Kirk (Evan Linder) and Suellen (Mary Hollis Inboden).
The four drink wine and share stories -- including the one about how Kirk left Alison at a party years back, where she ended up meeting Jacob. Kirk's a typical white-collar womanizer who can't go more than a couple sentences without mentioning that he's a lawyer, something that Suellen, a savvy no-nonsense woman and his blind date for the evening, finds less than attractive. They soon leave, and Jacob and Alison are alone on their couch. Their interaction is so natural, that it's easy to forget we're not just sitting on their window ledge, peering in. This seemingly perfect relationship starts to shatter when a shocking secret is revealed at the end of the first act.
Usually, a secret of this magnitude unravels not just the characters but the play itself, because it is so outlandish that it calls into question the credibility of the entire world. However, the revelation is handled in such a nuanced and disarmingly truthful way by the cast and director Andrew Hobgood that it makes the audience question their preconceived notions about morality and its relevance when it comes to love.
Hearts Full of Blood is presented by Chicago's New Colony theater company, whose mission statement is to use the experiences and strengths of their company members in creating the work from "a short story with rough character sketches." It's a creative idea that has produced incredible results in what is surely one of the best plays of this year's Fringe.