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THEATER | Theater Review

'Hasty Heart' Profiles a Bitter Man During His Final Days

November 02, 2000|JANA J. MONJI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

John Patrick's "The Hasty Heart" is a reminder of how people too often take life for granted. Director Pepper Sweeney carefully modulates the emotional climate of Patrick's morality tale in this fine Actors Co-op production at the Crossley Theatre.

A prideful Scottish sergeant, Lachlen (Stephen Van Dorn), believing himself fully recovered from surgery, testily awaits his release from a temporary British hospital in Southeast Asia during World War II. But when the surgeon (Greg Baldwin) removed the injured kidney, he observed that the remaining one would soon fail. By his calculations, the young man has only six weeks to live--this was before the era of donor cards and organ transplants.

Hoping to make his last days more comfortable, the doctor transfers the man into a new ward filled with a lively group of patients. He informs the nurse, Margaret (Marianne Savell), and the men of the situation. Yank (Scott Arroyo), a Georgia boy with disquieting memories of his Scottish grandfather, leads the welcome wagon, but Lachlen quickly rebuffs each man--including the non-English speaking Blossom (Jerome Gregory Williams) and the happy-go-lucky Tommy (Tim Woodard).

Lachlen's sole determination is to return to the regiment and save all his money to buy a farm in Scotland. He "puts no value on the human animal." He's so parsimonious that he won't indulge in little luxuries or the purchase of his regimental kilts. He defends himself against humanity and seals his solitude by playing his bagpipes--an instrument best appreciated from a distance.

Van Dorn's Highlander is a testy, bitter but not openly malicious man. His painfully awkward attempts at friendship and sharing are achingly poignant. Marc Elmer's Aussie and Rick Marcus' New Zealander are likable guys, not looking for confrontation like Arroyo's irrepressible Yank. Woodward's Brit is a silly, good-natured goose with a high, cackling laugh. Savell's nurse has a calm air of patience. Patrick's script could easily become maudlin, but Sweeney refrains from making this tear-jerker too weepy--none of the characters is heroic, self-righteous or preachy.

Burris Jackes' set design looks airy; in the windows behind the row of beds, tropical vegetation and bright sunlight are visible. The war seems a world away, a peripheral reference to this essay on how one should live. If the hasty heart brings sorrow, then the fearful one denies the simple joys of life.

BE THERE

"The Hasty Heart," Actors Co-op at Crossley Theatre, First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, 1760 N. Gower, Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; also Nov. 18 and 25, 2:30 p.m. Ends Dec. 17. $18. (323) 462-8460. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes.

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