Monday, February 2, 2015

Review: A Forbidden Love With Full Heart

During times of heartache, there are inevitably stories of momentous spirit and daring pride. On the eve of the Nazi threat in London, comes a love story of two American ex-pats. This duo happens to be a widowed African-American pianist and a white drag king. In Margaret Morrison’s Home in Her Heart, a period love drama examines the strength of a relationship in a volatile time.
Jimmie LeRoy is a singing, tap dancing male impersonator. Claire Hicks is her accompanist and partner. As the reality of relocating back to America puts a great toll on the couple, both as professionals and lovers, as the life they’ve been enjoying will not exist back at home. Home in Her Heart is a daring two-hander that tells a story of forbidden love with World War II as the backdrop. Morrison, who also plays Jimmie, the scripted focal point of the play, has written a play that pushes the boundaries, both for the time and now. Morrison’s story is unfortunately not one that gets told often. Fortunately, Morrison has created a play that is filled with heart. Sadly, it’s a story that lived in the past that longed for action in the present. Morrison’s script is filled with exposition and talking about the world rather doing anything about it. With a singular goal that both characters share, it leaves much repetition in dialogue Jimmie and Claire seem to talk in circles often from scene to scene. Perhaps by shrinking the length, it can allow for some of the scenes to be combined.
photo courtesy of Keith Gemerek
Margaret Morrison and her partner in crime, Ava Jenkins, have a wonderful report with one another. Morrison and Jenkins have a wonderful on-stage chemistry. However Morrison put Jenkins in the background as a character and as a performer. Morrison showcased her talents but often sacrificed the talents of Jenkins. The beauty of the story is the dynamic as a pair fighting together but while Claire may have been a support in the script, it reflected similarly on stage. Morrison has great confidence on stage that translated well for Jimmie, but you hoped to see more of Jimmie’s vulnerability for a well-rounded character. Ava Jenkins as Claire brought a deep truth to the character and situation. Jenkins’ Claire knew the reality of the world, which allowed her to gain sympathy for her character.
Director Cheryl King guided Morrison and Jenkins through the world Morrison created. She focused on the relationship quite well, allowing the chemistry to shine. The one hitch that King, and Morrison, encountered was Jimmie’s need for undressing and dressing. The idea of playing a character is a central theme, but when it comes to nudity, it should be brought it tastefully. The constant need for topless moments truly took away from the singular moment of nudity that could have made a stronger impact. The bandage moment was striking and beautiful, but lost all shock value with all the previous exposure. This scene truly defined the struggle and character of Jimmie.
Home in Her Heart is a piece of a great potential. This war age love story is an interesting tale of forbidden love but ultimately seems to lose all stakes by overloaded exposition.

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