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An Out-of-Sync ‘Heartbeats’

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I read with great interest Laurie Winer’s review “Housewife’s Laments Make for a Lamentable ‘Heartbeats,’ ” (Calendar, July 19). I attended the musical’s preview and, like your reviewer, did not fully embrace the show--but for different reasons. “Heartbeats” fills a void as it creates a void. We need more musical theater in Southern California; however, the last thing we need is social insensitivity.

My original purpose for attending the show was to support two worthy causes: First, it was advertised as being part of the World Cup Soccer cultural events. Secondly, it marked the hopeful financial turnaround of the Pasadena Playhouse. (A spokesman for thetheater thanked the audience for its financial support before the curtain opened.) I wanted to like this show, but my sense of political correctness was not left at the coat-check counter.

The central character Annie, played by Amanda McBroom, unveils her midlife crisis in this production. Annie’s husband, Steve, played by George Ball, belts out a song titled “Hurt Somebody Blues.” Here is a song, sung in blues fashion, that seems reminiscent of recent race-related beatings. Steve sings about being so angry with life’s irritants that he feels like hurting somebody! By singing the blues, a musical style attributed to black origins, Steve seems to equate his rage to the African American experience. Consequently, he trivializes the Angst of those who gave birth to the blues.

Annie is a novelist-librarian and housewife who believes her dreams have escaped her. She is passive in her anger toward her husband with whom she has little meaningful communication. After a spontaneous 40th birthday drink at a bar, she gives a young bartender a ride home. As she contemplates what she is doing, she wonders if her husband will greet her at the door with an ax. Now this may have been funny when the play was originally written, but it becomes a bit chilling in light of recent headlines.

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The tackiness does not end here. In another song, there is a reference to a “Chinese fire drill” as several of the characters scramble around the stage.

The fast-paced dynamic of social change these days makes jokes about racial stereotypes, violence and domestic troubles appear dated and tasteless.

Finally, Annie’s midlife crisis appears to get resolved because they run out of songs. I really did want to like this production. The redeeming qualities were the voice of William Falk and comedic timing of Sharon McNight. “Heartbeats” has its heart in the right place--it just needs some minor surgery to unclog its arteries.


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