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I Heart Alice Heart I

Amy Conroy's charming play tells the love story of two Irish women.

Promotional art for I Heart Alice Heart I
There's a great deal of charm to be found within Amy Conroy's I Heart Alice Heart I, currently receiving its U.S. premiere at Irish Arts Center, that any slight missteps in the performance are quite easily forgiven.

The play tells the love story of Alice Kinsella (the multi-talented Conroy, who also serves as director) and Alice Slatttery (who helped to develop the piece), who live in Ireland. As the show starts, they address the audience in a nervously awkward manner. The device sets them up as their characters, who are not meant to be performers.

The two Alices relate the tale of how they were approached to be the subjects of a documentary theater performance -- which is what we are supposedly witnessing on stage. And while this conceit is actually a fiction, Conroy does such a fine job in imbuing these women with personality, that it seems plausible that they could exist in real life.

The deep and abiding love that these women have for one another comes across not just in the writing, but also in the subtler non-verbal ways that the performers relate on stage. They sneak glances at one another, offer encouragement with small gestures, and share smiles when they relate certain stories.

Conroy creates a multi-dimensional performance as Alice K., nicely conveying her strong opinions on certain subjects, reticence to talk about others, and persevering attitude as she discusses events that do not necessarily show her in the best light.

Barrett indicates her character's nervousness too broadly for much of the show, but nevertheless manages to chart Alice S.'s journey from initial reluctance to participate in the theater project, to impassioned advocate for its existence.

There is nothing earth-shattering about the tales the women relate, and in many ways that is exactly the point. They are ordinary women in a long-term lesbian relationship who have their share of dashed dreams, personal misfortunes, and petty arguments. But theirs is still a story worth telling -- particularly when done with warmth and humor, as is the case here.