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God’s Heart

Perhaps the most prophetic observation in "God's Heart" is contributed by a principal character who asks if you have ever found yourself in a horrible dream and couldn't find a way out. The new play by Craig Lucas is a pretentious journey into cyberspace where dark dreams run rampant and collide. Despite some fervent acting by a fine cast, the drama is little more than a muddled high-tech study in confusion. Janet (Amy Brenneman) is a new mother and the wife of a Manhattan doctor (John Benjamin Hickey). Getting the latest news online from a laptop computer appears to be the most fun the couple has in bed, and Janet dozes off having just heard the sordid details of a murder involving neighbors in her apartment complex. Her subsequent dream sends her off into the night in pursuit of the victim, interrogating a catatonic hospital patient and ending up in a crack den.

Perhaps the most prophetic observation in “God’s Heart” is contributed by a principal character who asks if you have ever found yourself in a horrible dream and couldn’t find a way out. The new play by Craig Lucas is a pretentious journey into cyberspace where dark dreams run rampant and collide. Despite some fervent acting by a fine cast, the drama is little more than a muddled high-tech study in confusion.

Janet (Amy Brenneman) is a new mother and the wife of a Manhattan doctor (John Benjamin Hickey). Getting the latest news online from a laptop computer appears to be the most fun the couple has in bed, and Janet dozes off having just heard the sordid details of a murder involving neighbors in her apartment complex. Her subsequent dream sends her off into the night in pursuit of the victim, interrogating a catatonic hospital patient and ending up in a crack den.

Carlin (Ndehru Roberts) is an eager young student in awe of modern technology and its potential, who falls asleep on a park bench only to find himself in a drug deal gone bad. Barbara (Julie Kavner) is a documentary filmmaker traveling on a train with her lover, Eleanor (Viola Davis), a television personality who is dying of cancer. Barbara’s nightmare brings Eleanor in her last hours to a computer clinic where 30,000 questions are pumped into her brain before she dies, so that she will remain forever as a digital library.

After her demise and cremation, Eleanor appears on a video screen as a massive talking head to exhibit her new scholarly awareness. It seems she has learned to play chess, studied physics and baseball stats, read the Constitution for the first time, and discovered that the first recorded marriage in the Vatican library has been suppressed because its partners were of the same sex.

Upon awakening, Janet decides to move to the country and be a model housewife, Carlin vows to buckle down with his studies, and Barbara, mourning the loss of her lover, preaches Eleanor’s lesson of compassion.

There are quite possibly three different plays at the core of Lucas’ maelstrom; the dreams and characters never quite merge with clarity. Missing also is the playwright’s discomfiting humor, so aptly illustrated in “Reckless” and “Prelude to a Kiss.”

The acting is certainly to be commended for its freshness and vitality, especially Brenneman as a misguided nightstalker, Davis as an eternal guru and Kavner as her comforting companion. Director Joe Mantello has managed to move the actors up and around Robert Brill’s two-tier set with a sense of urgency lacking in the meandering text.

God’s Heart

Opened April 6, 1997, at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Reviewed April 9; 299 seats; $45 top

  • Production: A Lincoln Center Theater presentation of a play in two acts by Craig Lucas. Directed by Joe Mantello.
  • Crew: Set, Robert Brill; costumes, Toni-Leslie James; lighting, Brian MacDevitt; music, sound, Dan Moses Schreier; stage manager, Thom Widmann. Lincoln Center artistic director, Andre Bishop. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.
  • Cast: Ndehru Roberts (Carlin), Amy Brenneman (Janet), John Benjamin Hickey (David), Kia Joy Goodwin (Angela), Lisa Leguillou (Ana), Viola Davis (Eleanor), Julie Kavner (Barbara), Kevin Carroll (Cashmere/Dr. Franks); Kisha Howard, Kim Yancey Moore, Akili Prince, Peter Rini, Pamela Stewart.
  • Music By: