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A CurtainUp Review
The Broken Heart

Truth is child of time — Crotolon
Broken Heart
Annika Boras & Jacob Fishel
(Photo: Gerry Godstein)
Theatre for a New Audience’s The Broken Heart is a spectacle to behold. On a slick-tiled, dark stage replete with fog, black-hooded figures scheme and lurk. A musician (Molly Yeh) glides in from time to time, using a Waterphone to make some of the creepiest noises you may have ever heard.

Written by John Ford and first produced in 1629, The Broken Heart takes place in ancient Sparta. It, tracks the many tragic events that methodically unfold after Ithocles, an overreaching nobleman and warrior, forces his sister Penthea to marry the jealous Bassanes for family advancement rather than for love. The “big bang” casualty of this fateful decision is Orgilus, the son of Crotolon, who loved Penthea, and she him. Orgilus spends much of the play in agony, contemplating revenge.

David Van Tieghem’s original music and sudden blasts of noise, expertly synchronized with Marcus Doshi’s eerie lighting, will give you goose bumps. Antje Ellermann’s ominous, metallic yet hip stage design is the zenith of efficiency and makes great use of scaffolding, quickly assembled tables, hidden doors and rolling platforms. Costume designer Susan Hilferty could make some serious bling designing hoodies for downtown hipsters. Her costumes are impeccable from beginning to end, contrasting the youthful and rebellious with the stately and regal. Annie B-Parson’s choreography is taut yet sometimes puzzling. Within the first few minutes the hooded figures break into something like a Jacobean Britney Spears number but, fortunately, later dances are more appropriate to the text and the times.

There is humor in the The Broken Heart, much of it residing in the character of Bassanes (Andrew Weems). Mr. Weems handles the task admirably, balancing that character’s violent jealousy with his pitiably low self-esteem. He is a strong and rounded actor with a bit of Jackie Gleason in him: he’s clearly up to the task of playing the penitent clown.

Unfortunately, Director Selina Cartwell stifles much of Ford’s humor in favor of an unremitting landscape of bleakness. Her choice is a respectable one. Yet, one still can conclude that there is more room for levity in this nearly three hour play.

The rest of the cast is uniformly strong. Besides Mr. Weems, standouts include Jacob Fishel as Orgilus and Annika Boras as Penthea. Mr. Fishel is a tightly wound ball of unpredictable emotions; he’s a sympathetic loose cannon bound to explode. Athletic and nimble, Mr. Fishel dons disguises, descends ladders and leaps benches in pursuit of his revenge. Ms. Boras embodies volatile madness as the doomed Penthea, fatally unhappy living out the destiny her brother has given her.

This is an unusual and happy season for John Ford aficionados. With his more famous ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore coming next month to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, this is the rarest of times when these two plays will enjoy concurrent major New York City productions. In fact, according to Theatre for a New Audience, The Broken Heart has not seen a New York City production in 30 years. Now is the time to acquaint yourself with the immediate post-Shakespeare literary generation and see this strong and admirably polished production.

The Broken Heart
By John Ford (1586-1639)
Directed by Selina Cartmell
Cast: Philip Goodwin (King Amyclas), John Keating (Armostes/Phulas), Andrew Weems (Bassanes), Bianca Amato (Princess Calantah), Robert Langdon Lloyd (Crotolon), Margaret Loesser Robinson (Euphrania/Philema), Olwen Fouéré (Grausis), Saxon Palmer (Ithocles), Justin Blanchard (Nearchus), Jacob Fishel (Orgilus), Annika Boras (Penthea), Ian Holcomb (Prohilus), Tom Nelis (Tecnicus), Molly Yeh (a Musician)
Set Design: Antje Ellermann
Costume Design: Susan Hilferty
Lighting Design: Marcus Doshi
Composer/Sound Design: David Van Tieghem
Choreographer: Anne B-Parson
Voice Director: Andrew Wade
Dramaturg: Jonathan Kalb
Fight Director: J. Allen Suddeth
Casting: Deborah Brown
Production Stage Manager: Linda Marvel
Production Manager: B.D. White
General Manager: Theresa Von Klug
Running Time: 2 hours, 50 minutes with one 10-minute intermission
The Duke on 42nd Street, 229 W. 42nd Street, NYC, 10036;
From February 5, 2012; closing March 4, 2012; opening February 14, 2012
Friday, February 17, 2012 - 8pm , Saturday, February 18, 2012 - 2pm, Saturday, February 18, 2012 - 8pm, Sunday, February 19, 2012 - 3pm, Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 8pm, Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 2pm, Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 8pm, Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 8pm, Friday, February 24, 2012 - 8pm, Saturday, February 25, 2012 - 2pm, Saturday, February 25, 2012 - 8pm, Sunday, February 26, 2012 - 3pm, Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 8pm, Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 2pm , Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 8pm, Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 8pm, Friday, March 2, 2012 - 8pm, Saturday, March 3, 2012 - 2pm, Saturday, March 3, 2012 - 8pm, Sunday, March 4, 2012 - 3pm
Reviewed by William Coyle, based on February 15, 2012 performance
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