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BWW Review: 3rd Act's HEARTBREAK HOUSE is Witty and Wild

3rd Act Theatre Company closes their second season with this George Bernard Shaw comical farce.

BWW Review: 3rd Act's HEARTBREAK HOUSE is Witty and Wild
Photo by J. Christine Lanning

George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House, about an uppity British aristocratic family, is a comedy farce of classic theatre fare. 3rd Act Theatre Company closes out season 2 with this robust play, which is directed by Don Taylor. Kat Adams assistant directs.

The setting is 1914, and the Shotover Home in Sussex, England is expecting guests for dinner. It all sounds normal, except there's a war breaking out - World War I to be exact - and the members of the eccentric and noble family are no worse for the wear. Caring only for their vapid concerns and petty musings, there's hardly a redeeming quality to be found amongst them. They're all vainly snobbish and self-centered, and they all must be fun characters to portray!

Taylor has amassed a solid group of performers, and they carry this show well through two intermissions and three acts. Heartbreak House is a play full of robust, wordy dialogue, with a constant flow of conversation and antics that grow throughout the night. It can be hard to follow, and therefore clear lines of distinction between each character and scene are crucial. Part of the fun with this style of comedy is figuring out how the characters are connected to each other, especially if they don't know it yet! Many things about this show are surprising, and they slowly reveal themselves throughout the night.

Rob May is always a delight to watch on stage, and this time is no different. As Captain Shotover, May is at the helm in more ways than one. May leads the show and the family, hilarious as the kooky old sea captain. May has a sparkle in his eye and an ornery side, and Shotover is cleverer than he lets on at first. Korri Werner is having the most fun as Hesione Hushabye, Shotover's daughter and hostess for the evening. Werner is quite the instigator, clearly enjoying the drama she incites. She has magnetic chemistry with Peter Fischaber as her husband Hector. Fischaber is all charm and wit, strutting with well-deserved arrogance.

Denise Hughes is perfectly hate-able as Ariadne Utterword. She's a little bit villain, a little bit innocent, and she's all class and sophistication. Ronn Burton holds up well in his banter with Hughes as Randall Utterword. Megan Billings as Ellie Dunn is unabashedly out to find herself a rich husband, and she's shameless and hilarious in her pursuits. Edmund Gert is good-hearted and practically redeemable as Ellie's father Mazzini Dunn.

If there's anyone with a salvageable quality within this ridiculous affair, it's Boss Mangan. Taylor Reich plays him with the perfect combination of innocence and bewilderment, and it's all sprinkled with absurdly amusing physical comedy.

Matthew Moreillon makes a humorous appearance as opportunistic would-be burglar Billy Dunn. He's reacquainted with Nurse Guinness, who is portrayed sternly and professionally by Anna Holloway.

This ensemble cast works well together, none outshining or upstaging the others. It's nice to watch a cast of professionals create a work of art. It's amazing what can happen when collaboration is the main priority. None of these actors bring ego or arrogance to this production. What results is an easy, enjoyable, and refreshing night of theatre. It's obvious that they work well together and collaborate professionally and respectfully, a key component for such a stout play.

Mutual respect and care for one another is apparent and on display fully throughout the night. This important component makes the patrons and reviewers alike so much more comfortable. For too long the theatre industry has pushed and worked underpaid actors into exhausted performances, all to churn out a product and sell tickets. It's obvious from this production that every care has been taken to respect these artists. Happy artists create better work. 3rd Act does this right, every time.

Heartbreak House makes fun of itself and its characters, and it subtly reminds the audience to see what's beyond our own noses for a moment. After a year in quarantine, it has been easy to forget that there's a whole world beyond our own doors. Much like these characters fail to see, there are things bigger than us. Heartbreak House is an old play, that's undeniable. The style is dated and the subject matter is hardly current. But it comes together well and this cast is top-notch.

3rd Act always produces the best theatrical works Oklahoma City has to offer. And they're proving once again that they're the ones to beat.

3rd Act's season closer HEARTBREAK HOUSE runs until May 22nd at their Northpark Mall location. A streaming only performance is available on May 23rd. For tickets and info on their upcoming third season UNKNOWN, visit 3rdacttheatreco.com.


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