The Domino Heart*** (Finborough Theatre, 3 February 2014)

Posted: February 4, 2014 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews:  www.thepublicreviews.com

The core of all human emotions or just a muscle pumping blood around the body? The differing connotations attached to the word “heart” form the basis for this thoughtful debut play by Canadian writer Matthew Edison, here getting its UK premiere. Cara (Amanda Hale) agonises over the chain of events that led to a car crash in which she lost her partner – was it just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or did an argument between them over an infidelity a decade earlier set off the chain? She consents for his heart to be used in a transplant and then wonders if she will be able to look into the eyes of the recipient and see him living on inside a new body. A “domino heart” is one that is passed between two (or more) recipients, usually because of death during a transplant operation. Here we see two potential recipients. Mort (Lawrence Werber) is a septuagenarian who sums up his positive outlook on life by saying that he is “scared not of dying but of not living”; never married and a man of the church, he is portrayed as inherently good and selfless. In complete contrast, Leo (Rob Cavazos) is a 33-year old advertising executive who dabbles in dodgy financial dealings; born to a poor Mexican mother as a result of rape, he is ruthless and cynical and, to him, the most important heart is the one that keeps money flowing through the system. So, which of these two is worthier of extended life? Should such judgements be influenced by age, moral outlook, background or wealth? The Domino Heart plants these ethical questions into our heads, without lingering on them or offering answers. The play is presented as separate monologues by each of the characters, all three being on stage throughout yet never meeting. The monologues are all, in different ways, touching, but they do not reach the level of dramatic intensity that could have made them heart-rending. Interaction between characters might have heightened the drama and the play seems to be promising a final scene which will bring characters together. Sadly, this scene does not materialise, with the further loss that, ultimately, the disparate themes contained within the writing are never quite unified in a coherent way. Simply staged in an intimate setting, the production is blessed with three impeccable performances and, leaving aside disappointments, the writing is, for the most part, intelligent and absorbing. The Domino Heart introduces us to a playwright with considerable promise.

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