Eat Your Heart Out

 

By Courtney Baronrivendell theatre

Directed By Hallie Gordon

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Chicago

“Forgiveness only works if the person you’re forgiving is actually sorry.”
-Evie

Smart, Witty, And True To Life Ensemble Piece About Judgments

Eat Your Heart Out is a phenomenal “slice of life” production that displays a fast-paced, entertaining, and realistic depiction of contemporary life. Although the play is a drama, it’s peppered with fresh comedy and ironic dark humor. The play intertwines the lives of six individuals in a way that’s reminiscent of a Robert Altman film. Nance (Katherine Keberlein) is a single mother who struggles to connect with her overweight daughter, Evie (Anne Joy). Evie grapples with her body image and bullying at school; all the while wishing her best friend Colin (Andrew Goetten) liked her as much as she likes him. Colin strives to help Evie as best he can while juggling a long distance relationship. Meanwhile, Alice (Mary Cross) and Gabe (Michael Szeles) desperately want to start a family and anxiously prepare for, and stumble through, the adoption agency’s at home evaluation. Lastly, the whole tangled web of lives is underscored by Tom (Charlie Strater), a nice, lonely, and innocent man who tries to navigate his first date with Nance, whom he met on match.com.

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Playwright Courtney Baron did a fantastic job of critiquing a multitude of contemporary problems through realistic and relatable characters. In a world of ever increasing social networks, we’re constantly concocting online profiles that attempt to market ourselves in a desirable way. We’re forced to advertise ourselves as succinctly as possible, which prevents us from expressing who we really are. The through line of the play seems to be that we are more than our “profiles.” Our desires, flaws, and struggles are more complex than a few pictures and a couple lines of text. Although we have entered a brave new world of snap judgments, the idea that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover is a timeless lesson we should never forget.

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We judge our own flaws, thinking we are unique in our problems to the point where we feel as if no one would understand or forgive us. We’re also judged for our outward appearances and our inner most feelings. Alice and Gabe are so worried about being judged by Nance (the adoption agency’s at home evaluator) that they forget they are only human. Their conceited worries come back around like a snake eating its tail, judging themselves more harshly than Nance ever would have. Their self-consciousness boils over and turns into an unwarranted judgment of Nance, who can’t help but defend herself and judge them back. On the other hand, Evie is constantly judged by her outward appearance. She does her best to deflect her feelings and work on her body image, but when she finally comes to terms with her problems, she becomes her own worst critic. Tom bridges these gaps by being overly compassionate. He shows Nance and the audience, that everyone deserves a fair chance and a little bit of patience. We all make mistakes.

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The only individual plot line that didn’t seem to fit was Colin’s. His character was a wonderful compliment to Evie; however, his personal struggle through his long distance relationship was nothing more than an exercise in angst. It’s difficult to make long distance relationships interesting when we only get to see and hear one side of the conversation. I understand its place in the story, but it didn’t add much to the other story lines.

The play is extremely captivating and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. However, I felt the play ended before the most intriguing moment was about to happen. Ending a slice of life story is difficult, since you start in the middle of things, and end in the middle of things. The idea being, life goes on. If you didn’t choose to cut the story off somewhere, it would just go on forever. Nevertheless, I think the play would have benefited from a more declarative third act or epilogue.

The direction and construction of the play was superb. The actors were all extremely lively and realistic, holding their characters well as the play quickly jumped from vignette to vignette. Anne Joy gave an especially genuine portrayal of Evie, truly living on stage.

Theatre is capable of doing many things, but one thing it does exceptionally well is allow the viewer to step right into the lives of others. Eat Your Heart Out is one of those plays where you forget that you’re sitting in a theatre and instead become a fly on the wall of someone else’s life. This is not one to miss.

Highly Recommended

Michael Gerrity

Date Reviewed: June 4th, 2014

Jeff Recommended
For more info check out the Eat Your Heart Out page at theatreinchicago.com
At Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5779 N. Ridge Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-334-7728, www.rivendelltheatre.org, tickets $30, Wednesday-Friday 8pm, Saturdays 4pm & 8pm, running time is 90 minutes with no intermission, through June 28th, 2014

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Rivendell Theatre

5779 N. Ridge, Chicago, IL 60660