Central School of Speech and Drama: The Broken Heart

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Hello again! Here is, as promised, my review of “The Broken Heart”. Since the play was originally written by writer John Ford in the 17th century, I found it a little hard to follow. But, after looking up the available online summaries (admittedly only skimming the first few that I saw), I realize that I pretty much got the gist of it. Basically, there is Penthea who was supposed to be married to Orgilus, but then her brother, the general Ithocles, decides to marry her off to this horrible jealous man Bassanes (who has a really weird old woman servant named Grausis). Also good to know, Ithocles wants to marry the princess Calantha, and Orgilus’ younger sister Euphranea (shout out to the lovely Emily Duncan!) wants to marry Ithocles’ friend Prophilus. It’s a very soap opera-like drama about love that also highlights social assumptions of women at the time. In the course of the play, none of these lovers (save Euphranea and Prophilus) find happiness and two women die of “broken hearts”.

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            First, to comment on the set and costumes of the performance. The set was very simple, with audience seated on three sides and screens covering the fourth side. There were two vents built in the stage that would give off an eerie light and smoke at appropriate times in the story. I thought the actors did a good job using the simplicity of the space and moving around the space to work the angles and give off a great performance for all audience members.

When the play began, I was immediately impressed with the costumes. The shoes in particular. Many had perfect historically accurate shoes, even the men! The dresses were all very pretty to the eye and captured the essence of each female character (for example Euphranea the youngest was dressed in a cream to show her innocence).

Now to address the feminism aspect of the play. As I first walked in to the theatre, it struck me that all the female characters were onstage already, basking in the lights, and “in character” whether that meant swishing their dresses or looking up at the ceiling in a dreamy manner. The men sat in the shadows, watching the women and waiting for the performance to begin. Once the narrator started introducing the play, all the female characters lined up in front of the male characters and the men proceeded to hold the women’s necks with their right hand. Weird. But poignant. Showing the male dominance that is obvious throughout the next 2 hours and 30 minutes of the play. Also, there was the fact that both female characters that die, die of “broken hearts” which is sort of unclear. Penthea starves herself to death but the death of Calantha was much more unclear. At the sight of her murdered fiancée, she weds him, kisses him, then gasps and dies. Weirder. Possibly she does die of a broken heart after trying so hard to prove to the court that she is a strong ruler. The play itself is very interesting and led to a lot of action that was fun to watch.

The acting, as expected, was really good. Except for the jealous Bassanes, I understood what each character’s objective was and this helped me piece together the story. Some characters had a little too much hand movement for my taste, (Orgilus literally looked like he was doing an interpretive hand dance at times) but the rest of the movement was really well done. I especially loved watching the actor who played Technicus (narrator/scholar) and Amelus (bodyguard). He had such different mannerisms for both that it was fun to see the changes in vocal tone and posture (the actor playing the King also did a great job differentiating his two characters from each other). The actors all playing the lovers really made me, as a viewer, invested in their happiness. Lo and behold, I was very disappointed with the ending of the play, but really happy with my experience.

Congrats actors of Central School of Speech and Drama!

Till next time,

~A

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