It may be just a muscle, albeit an incredibly important one, but the emotional significance of this vital organ is enough to drive the plot of Canadian writer Matthew Edison’s sensitive and perceptive play.
A ‘domino heart’ is one that has been passed between two or more recipients. Yet whilst the three characters’ lives of The Domino Heart have been undoubtedly connected, their performances are less so. Each story is performed as a monologue whilst the remaining two actors sit in corners of the stage and write continuously in notebooks.
Cara (Amanda Hale) is driving herself to the point of exhaustion as she agonises over the series of events that lead to a fatal car crash in which she lost her husband. Was it the argument they had in the moments before that caused the crash? Or was it the subject of the argument, an incident that happened 10 years previously, which set the chain of events in motion? Hale performs well as the guilt-ridden and distraught widow, still tormenting herself with a series of what-ifs. She brings a sense of exasperation to the role that makes it clear that she has thought over every possibility thousands of times.
Alongside her, Lawrence Werber is a sweet and grounded Reverend Mortimer Wright. Well into old age and in need of a heart transplant, he is calm and collected, accepting of his lot. He has also hurt loved ones in the past, yet Werber’s steady and soothing pace as he recollects this suggests that the reverend has long since surpassed Cara’s stage of guilt. He’s learnt to live with his actions and to embrace the time he has left, approaching each day with an infectious thirst for life. Werber gives an animated performance that is clearly indicative of this attitude.
Leo Juarez (Rob Cavazos), however, doesn’t generate the same sympathy or understanding as the others. A 33 year old advertising exec motivated by money and involved in dodgy dealings, he reeks of self-interest and a lack of concern for others. He too, though, is in need of a heart. Cavazos highlights Leo’s cynicism and frustration at his own pressurised lifestyle that he believes has led to his faulty heart. Behind a driven and focused façade of a high-flying executive, Cavazos balances Leo’s hardened exterior with his emotional struggle to convince himself that he really is entitled to, and worthy of, a new heart.
Jane Jeffery’s direction is intimate and affecting, but there is a nagging feeling that more interaction between the characters would have drawn a tighter focus on Edison’s philosophical thought. The question of whether one person can be more deserving of a new heart than another is raised in the text, yet as the characters exist in different locations and times, it really is up to the direction to link this idea through their individual stories, which sadly doesn’t happen.
The Domino Heart is playing at the Finborough Theatre until 18 February. For more information and tickets, see the Finborough Theatre website.