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Construction of the Human Heart

  • 2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Lots of little slippages characterize the failure of the American production of Australian Ross Mueller’s Construction of the Human Heart: minor ones between idioms (antipodean references that skate by) and more serious ones between sensibility and performance (the actors overplay a work based on tricky formal modulations). There’s also a stutter between the time of its creation and today; perhaps in 2006, we weren’t so burdened with plays that use the “dead child” plot to create instant sympathy. Now, it seems derivative and easy—as easy as falling down a Rabbit Hole.

Her (Danzeisen) and Him (Huffman) begin by reading from scripts, binders that they will return to throughout the piece. Sometimes these pages are the actual play, and sometimes they are a play-within-the-play that Her has written about Him and Her’s life together. That life, soaked with grief, has begun to tear apart, and Him dreads the dinner scene at the end—he’s enough of a dramaturg to see where the story is heading. Keeping conceits like these from turning into preciousness requires a light, light touch, which director Brendan Naylor does not provide. Happily, the big white loft space at Access Theater looks marvelous. Set designer Jan Jericho makes it seem as though pictures have just been taken down, as though the inhabitants have left and no one has replaced them. This sense of absence, pointed to but not shouted about, is just what the play needs. It’s a shame, therefore, that the show itself consists of loudly earnest performances that scare any ghosts from the room.—Helen Shaw


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