Review: ‘Heartless Bastard’ Turns Out To Have One (And A Soul, Too)
By Justin Sharon, Contributing Writer, August 24, 2017
With ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ newly nestled at number one on iTunes, this may be as good a time as any to see Heartless Bastard. Jim Shankman’s play, currently at the HERE Arts Center, tells the story of hard-charging commercial real estate broker Barry Weiss (Collin Smith). Early in the production — perhaps a tad too early, because a bit more backstory wouldn’t have gone amiss — he suddenly succumbs to an acute myocardial infarction. The resulting heart transplant transforms Barry from callous Gordon Gekko to caring Alan Alda in a heartbeat. The man who once snorted cocaine from $1,000 notes now gladly gives $5 bills to panhandlers.
He sets off on a single-minded mission to discover everything about his donor, even at the risk of losing his girlfriend and business partner Janie McGonnigle (Amelia Mathews). What ensues combines elements of farce (Darth Vader makes an appearance) with moments of poignancy (a three-hanky ending occasioned by the lack of a matching tissue). Lively scene changes and uptempo music ensure you don’t dose. The solid cast includes Kevin Sims, who portrays a dizzying array of male doctors. That I espied two minor line flubs among the scrubs doesn’t detract from his adroit alternation among American, Russian, and Irish accents. Courtney Leigh Halford likewise conveys a disparate lineup of female medics effectively.
But it is Barbra Wengard, as Bayonne’s own Lorna Lazaretto, who steals the show. Channeling two helpings of Marisa Tomei (an accent akin to My Cousin Vinny in material analogous to Untamed Heart) she movingly conveys a widow’s torment. With impeccable delivery of lines like “I just buried the guy I married two weeks out of high school,” this actress imbues Heartless Bastard with a soul.
Heartless Bastard presented by SubletSeries@HERE at Manhattan’s HERE Arts Center, 145 Sixth Avenue, through September 2, 2017. Running time is 80 minutes with no intermission. Written by Jim Shankman. Directed by Craig George; set design by Margaux Maeght; lighting design by Cha See; costume design by Glenna Ryer; sound design by Nickolas George Brown; technical direction by Steven Brenman. Cast: Collin Smith, Amelia Mathews, Barbra Wengard, Kevin Sims, and Courtney Leigh Halford.
Cover: Collin Smith in ‘Heartless Bastard;’ photo: Jody Christopherson.