It is not unusual for Sam Shepard to baffle even the most intent or admiring observer of his work. The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright knows his way around troubled families.
In “Heartless,” his mystifying tale of a family at- home with its dysfunction, at the Pershing Square Signature Center extended through September 30th, nothing is permanent, not even death.
|Betty Gilpin as Elizabeth and Julianne Nicholson as Sally in Sam Shepard’s “Heartless.” Photo (c) Joan Marcus.|
There is the suggestion in “Heartless” that dysfunction is a natural state of affairs for families. That despite the fact that very little is normal in this household. Sally (Julianne Nicholson) has been saved by the implant of a murdered girl’s heart. Her sister, Lucy (Jenny Bacon) indulges in the futility of curing their mother, Mabel (Lois Smith) of imaginary pains. To complicate matters, Sally has brought Roscoe (Gary Cole), a man estranged from his wife and children, home with her.
|Gary Cole as Roscoe, Betty Gilpin as Elizabeth, Lois Smith as Mabel, Jenny Bacon as Lucy (on roof), and Julianne Nicholson as Sally in “Heartless.” Photo (c) Joan Marcus.|
“Heartless” is a confounding dramatic piece with a majestic breadth reflected in the set. The sparse yet expansive scenic design by Eugene Lee creates a vast landscape on which the story is played out. Daniel Aukin’s able directing of the fine ensemble cast respects the disjunctive rhythms of “Heartless.”
Lois Smith stands out in this fantastic panoply of actors. “Heartless” is, after all, also about the kind of cruelty that is typical of mother-love. Mabel is fiercely protective of Sally, who needs saving from night terrors and bad memories, and maybe even the accident of living.
For more information about “Heartless,” and the new Signature Theatre season, please go to http://www.signaturetheatre.org/shows-and-events/index.aspx