It can be difficult for a production to muster energy when there are only four people in the audience, as there were at the final performance of The heArt Dealer at Raw Space. But no matter how small the audience, how small the stage, how small the budget...nothing could excuse this staggeringly inept affair.
How is it possible, with the massive pool of eager-to-work talent
available in this city, to assemble a cast of six without a single
good actor in it? Even the production elements that usually can
be written off as Off-Off-Broadway minimalism were inexcusably
bad, by any standard. When a policeman removed his jacket and
gun prior to interrogating a suspect, he put them on the floor;
apparently, an additional chair or table for the set was impossible
to find. The play had just two sound requirements: a gunshot (which
sounded like the needle scratching on an LP), and music when two
characters danced in a bar (they danced in silence). The audience
didn't realize when the play ended -- no one applauded until the
curtain call-because the closing "blackout," like all
those between scenes, left the stage half lit.
As for costumes, the femme fatale wore a thigh-high skirt -- femmes fatales have to be sexy, you know. But this femme fatale happens to be a lawyer, so that wasn't exactly appropriate business attire. (She also is extremely vulnerable, talkative and easily flustered for a such a bad girl. And after she confesses to murder, the police officer she had duped lets her walk off with his gun.)
As writer, director and star of The heArt Dealer, Carl Charroux must shoulder most of the blame for the "play" (although maybe he should be commended for actually having the guts to bill it as "a brilliant production done in classic film noir style"). Charroux's script is chock full of inanities -- such as the so-called "world's greatest detective" being the only person who can't detect the link between two unsolved cases -- and his careless blocking produced such scenarios as a hostage-taker pointing his gun everywhere except at his hostage's head. The second scene is set in a bar, yet the characters lean against the doorway and walk across the room while arguing as they would only in a private place. A cop's girlfriend is upset to smell alcohol on him when she arrives, and he admits to having had a few, although his entire time at the bar had been depicted onstage and he never once took a drink. Then, after the cops bust up a heroin deal, they handcuff the participants to chairs in the bar and interrogate them (violently) right there, all the while leaving the heroin and $10,000 in cash out on a table, unguarded and in full view of all.
These are but a few examples of the atrocious staging, dreadful character development and non-sequitur dialogue in The heArt Dealer. The first tipoff that no one had considered whether anything onstage made sense occurred in the opening minutes of the play: In a New York City stationhouse, police detectives (with New England accents) discuss a homicide in which the body was found "down by the lake." Which of New York City's lakes would that be?
(Also featuring Lissa Williams, Chris Marshall, John Wayne Peel, Christine De Melo, Maurene Walker)
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Copyright 2001 Adrienne Onofri