“Attacks on the Heart” caps Arthur Laurents’ six-year working relationship, as both writer and director, with New Brunswick’s George Street Playhouse. This new one-acter focuses upon an unlikely encounter between an American screenwriter and an attractive Turkish widow in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It’s a new variation on the politically opposed odd couple from Laurents’ “The Way We Were” three decades ago.
Beecher (Alan Rachins), a politically minded indie filmmaker, meets Leyla (Cigdem Onat) in a Manhattan cafe located near a hospital. She is a translator for the Middle East Trade League at the United Nations. Her son is in critical condition, having been pushed in front of an automobile.
Eventually, Leyla’s son dies, and Beecher comforts her. Their accidental meeting gradually leads to a more intimate relationship. The daughter of a diplomat, Leyla reveals that her son had taken flying lessons in Florida prior to 9/11 and was the target of an FBI inquiry into his activities. (The mysterious circumstances of his death are never fully explained.) Leyla was also unaware that her late Lebanese husband had been in the pay of Hezbollah. “How is it possible to see the danger in someone you love?” she asks.
This fragile love story never develops any real sense of passion, unfortunately. And ultimately, what began as a sweet romance is marred by disturbingly blatant political rhetoric and Bush-bashing. The play is undeniably talky, but Laurents’ writing is always incisive, hard-edged and flavorful.
Onat, a former leading actor of the National Theater of Turkey, dominates the play with her sensitive and persuasive performance. Her natural personal radiance gives the play its thrust and glow. Rachins, of TV’s “Dharma & Greg” and “L.A. Law,” offers a credible but rather static account of Leyla’s unlikely amour.
David Saint’s crisp directorial hand provides a keen pace and thrust. A clean scenic pattern on a revolving platform offers functional, smart Gotham locales.