Written by Georgette Kelly
Directed by Cate Caplin
With uneven, if sometimes moving results, Georgette Kelly’s new drama tracks both the literal and metaphorical journey of a human heart as it leaves one body to give life to another.
An ethereal presence now, noted author Debra Wilder (Dey Young) continues hovering around the world of the living as she prepares for the afterlife. Her estranged daughter Phoebe (Rebi Paganini), hears her mother’s voice as she peruses a manuscript Debra has left for her. The story tells of Debra’s wild years, hitchhiking to Woodstock and living the expat life in Morocco, where Phoebe was conceived. This is the closest Phoebe has ever gotten to truly understanding her mother; the two never got to say goodbye as Debra was already brain dead by the time Phoebe arrived at the medical center. The recipient of Debra’s donated heart is Tess (Dana Scurlock), who recoups in a hospital bed while her bossy-but-caring wife Lydia (Nicole Paloma Sarro) and gentle son Josh (John Anthony Torres) cross their fingers and hope the operation is a success. Debra’s spirit also plays visits to Tess’s bedside, suggesting that she cope with her conflicting emotions by doing something she’s never attempted before: writing.
Complications, both medical and emotional, arise as Phoebe begins an affair with Blake (Nico Piccardo), a sociable young doctor she meets in the hospital waiting room (who also happens to be one of Tess’s physicians). Meanwhile, Tess body begins rejecting the transplanted organ, causing Lydia to freak out and prompting an emergency return to the medical center. Phoebe has her own struggles, as she must step out from her mom’s shadow, find her own voice as a writer, poet, and stop sabotaging her potentially happy relationship with Blake. Eventually, though, Tess does decide to take a chance and start putting her thoughts down on paper. Much to the satisfaction of the phantasmal Debra, the written word becomes the agent of change.
I CARRY YOUR HEART is a tight evening of theater that largely works well. Director Cate Caplin uses the theater’s intimate space skillfully and draws moving performances from a charismatic cast. But the story – ironically enough, given its subject – missing from its center. Phoebe is quick to indict her mother, complaining that she “went away”. True, writers sometimes need to spend time apart from their families in order to meet the demands of the craft. That may have been tough for Phoebe as child, but as an adult it seems odd that she’s so loath to acknowledge her mother’s dedication.With zero help from Phoebe’s father, Debra used her gifts to provide for her family. Had she been an attorney or CEO, she still would have had to serve the two masters of career and family. There’s clearly more to the mother-daughter dynamic here, some reason why they didn’t talk for two years, than what Kelly shows us in this draft of the script. She would do well to consider rendering the parent-child relationship in sharper detail.
I CARRY YOUR HEART continues through April 14, 2019 at 59E59 theaters, 59 East 59th Street, New York, New York. Tickets: http://www.59e59.org.