They did not exist till Art had invented them

A (Ben Cole) is a writer and a producer. He’s sunk his ample wealth into a feature film starring B  (Clea Alsip) and C (Tony Naumovski), his wife and best friend, respectively. He thinks B and C may be having an affair and he’s still selling scripts despite announcing his suspicions to unsuspecting producers during pitches. But this isn’t solely A’s story. It’s also the story of B and C struggling to navigate their roles both on and off the screen, doing their best to reconcile their adulterous feelings for one another while starring in a movie about adultery. And yet the story also belongs to D (Maren Bush), C’s girlfriend and the editor of A’s movie. Hers is a story about stories, about picking up the fractured pieces given to you and trying to put them into some kind of order.

Wide Awake Hearts is a rich, well-acted production that sides heavily on the art influences life side of the argument: The affair at the center of the story may have been instigated by A’s script about an affair. Real life gradually adopts the heightened dramatic tone of cinema, a choice that makes potentially groan-inducing indulgences like overbearingly witty dialogue and audition-ready monologues an essential part of the narrative. Scenes are staged in an overlapping manner that makes it feel as though the world of A’s script is spilling into reality. If Wide Awake Hearts were a movie, it would be very well edited. D would approve.

Playwright Brendan Gall mimics the life of a movie by handing off the story twice. It begins as the creation of a writer and producer, transfers to the actors, and finally lands in the hands of the editor. It is appropriate that D is the final narrator and not just because she’s the last step in the creative process. At one point, A, B, C, and D find themselves discussing their anxiety dreams. A fears the blank page. B and C fear the unrehearsed production. Their collective nightmare is a botched creative endeavor. D, however, dreams of “one endless take with no options, no coverage,” which, as B points out, is just life. D fears reality. When reality conforms so easily to fiction, it’s easy to see why.

Wide Awake Hearts runs through February 7th at 59E59 Theaters.  59 E. 59th Street  New York, NY.  1 hour 30 minutes.  No intermission.

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Ben Botwick

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