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BWW Review: HE BROUGHT HER HEART BACK IN A BOX at Round House Theatre

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A Great Start to The Work of Adrienne Kennedy: Inspiration & Influence Festival

If you haven't heard Adrienne Kennedy or her plays, you should get to know them. Adrienne Kennedy, known for "The Alexander Plays," creates plays centered around the African-American experience. Her work has inspired countless African American Playwrights and actors including Jeremey O. Harris and Shonda Rhimes. To celebrate her work, Round House Theatre is putting on a virtual festival titled, "The Work of Adrienne Kennedy: Inspiration & Influence." The first production in this festival is Kennedy's most recent play, "He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box," directed by Nicole A. Watson, and produced in association with McCarter Theatre Center.

BWW Review: HE BROUGHT HER HEART BACK IN A BOX at Round House Theatre
Maya Jackson (Kay) and Michael Sweeney Hammond (Chris) in HE BROUGHT HER HEART BACK IN A BOX. Image courtesy of Round House Theatre.

Round House Theatre's production stars Kay (Maya Jackson) and Chris (Michael Sweeney Hammond) with stage directions spoken by Agyeiwwa Asante. Chris, son of Harrison Aherne, an owner of enslaved people, and Kay, a young African American woman, are in love and plan to get married. As Kay goes off to college and Chris moves to New York City, they write each other letters. Kay is haunted by the death of her mother while Chris struggles with the relationship between himself and his father. As they both continue to write to each other, a tragedy from the past begins to unfold. Round House Theatre's production of "He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box" is a haunting portrait of institutional racism in Georgia during the 1940's.

BWW Review: HE BROUGHT HER HEART BACK IN A BOX at Round House Theatre
Agyeiwaa Asante (Stage Directions) in HE BROUGHT HER HEART BACK IN A BOX. Image courtesy of Round House Theatre.

Jackson and Hammond both breathe life into their characters with each line they speak, and they channel this immense emotional energy right through the screen. Kennedy's play has many layers and twists, and she is able to pack so much suspense in very little time. Relationships are at the forefront of this play. Jackson's portrayal of Kay is powerful to watch as she tries to understand what really happened to her mother. Hammond's Chris struggles to come to terms in what his father believes in as he recalls strange interactions with his father's friends in Berlin, Germany.

The actors don't move around too much in this production, but this adds even more power to the words in Adrienne Kennedy's play. This separation of the actors creates a sense of division and tension within the theater space, and signifies the barrier of segregation. Stage directions add a dynamic layer to the production and assist with the story's pacing.

 <a href=Michael Sweeney Hammond (Chris) holding a replica of the segregated Montefiore train station in HE BROUGHT HER HEART BACK IN A BOX. " height="225" src="https://cloudimages.broadwayworld.com/upload13/2075426/12_%20Michael%20Sweeney%20Hammond%20(Chris)%20holding%20a%20replica%20of%20the%20segregated%20Montefiore%20train%20station%20in%20HE%20BROUGHT%20HER%20HEART%20BACK%20IN%20A%20BOX_Courtesy%20of%20Round%20House%20Theatre.png" width="400" />
Michael Sweeney Hammond (Chris) holding a replica of the segregated Montefiore train station in HE BROUGHT HER HEART BACK IN A BOX.
Image courtesy of Round House Theatre.

While there is no set on stage, the visual effects designed by Kelly Colburn, and photography directed by Maboud Ebrahimzadeh, paired with editing and videography by Joshua Land and Mind in Motion, create a sense of place and time. The production makes use of spotlighting miniature sets such as a dollhouse staircase, tiny door, and model train cars. The focus on these miniatures along with overlays of imagery, such as photographs of life in Montefiore, Georgia, add a surreal-like quality to the production.

For anyone who has never experienced a Adrienne Kennedy play, this is a great opportunity to be able to see her work. You might decide to watch it more than once (like I did) to try and see what else you can discover underneath the drama and suspense. If you have seen this play before, you might even catch something that you didn't notice.

Running Time: 35 minutes without an intermission


Round House Theatre's HE BROUGHT HER HEART IN A BOX streams on demand through February 21, 2021. Tickets can be purchased here.


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From This Author Hannah Wing