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REVIEW: ‘The Broken Heart’ lies a-bleeding

brokenheart022212_optRare revival of 1629 tragedy produces a complicated play easier read than done

BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW

Over the last 30 years, Theatre for a New Audience has provided many enjoyably inventive productions of Shakespeare’s plays and other classical works.

The company also has done exceedingly well by 20th-century plays like Harley Granville-Barker’s “Waste” and Edward Bond’s “Saved.”

But every now and then TFANA unearths a play that might be better left for readers to savor at home than for viewers to experience in the theater and that’s the case with its current production of “The Broken Heart” staged at The Duke on 42nd Street.

Summarizing the intricate plot for “The Broken Heart” is not an easy task.

Composed around 1629, John Ford’s drama involves plenty of exposition before launching into its tragic throes laid in ancient Sparta. Essentially, Orgilus (Jacob Fishel) is furious because his beloved Penthea (Annika Boras) has been forced by her twin brother, the heroic general Ithocles (Saxon Palmer), to wed Bassanes (Andrew Weems), a jealous old coot who makes her miserable.

As the unhappy Penthea proceeds to starve herself to death, Orgilus takes revenge upon Ithocles, who is romantically involved with Calantha (Bianca Amato), heiress to the Spartan throne.broken2heart022212_opt

The laborious drama features two especially striking scenes that occur late in the story. The first is when Orgilus snares Ithocles by use of a trick mechanical chair and murders him. The other highlight is when Calantha, leading a royal ball, successively learns of the deaths of her father, Penthea and Ithocles but stoically keeps on dancing until she dies of a broken heart.

Believe me, there’s considerably more plot than just the above outline to Ford’s tragedy, which also includes a whiff of incest that the playwright exploited far more dramatically in his most famous play, “Tis Pity She’s a Whore.”



 

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