By Victoria L. Dammer
It’s hard for many theatergoers to comprehend how a solo performer can entertain an audience for over 70 minutes, sharing an intimate glimpse into their lives without skipping a beat. Yet, London-based actor, writer, and producer of Heart, Jade Anouka, does just that and more in her New York City theater debut in an interesting exposure of her life’s journey and struggle to find her true heart.
Set on a billowy taffeta in pink, fuchsia, and orange stage, Anouka moves across the set, climbs a ladder, and crawls on the floor. Her monologue is poetic at times. She holds the audience’s attention through her transformation from a heterosexual marriage and divorce through acceptance of her sexuality and her fight to have society, including her parents, accept her for who she is and who she ultimately loves.
Anouka tells us right from the beginning, “This is a story of misfit,” as if all of us who struggle with our identity can claim this label. Yet most of us do, as we follow our hearts and navigate intimate relationships, finding our true identity and our choices of whom to love without conditions. We all feel as Anouka states, “inadequacy. We cannot move forward.”
Anouka names her shortcomings, her ball and chain, and her demons “the beast.” The beast comes and goes at various times in her relationships. Her “perfect” marriage crumbles quickly with a husband who has a mental illness. With most poisonous liaisons, we do not see the signs of potential trouble when in the throes of what we believe is true love and the way it is.
When the marriage ends, Anouka turns to multiple sex partners for self-soothing connections, falling prey to another beast and admitting, “sex is the great healer,” when the heart is struggling. Yet it turns out it isn’t.
Anouka tries to be the perfect girlfriend in the first true male-female relationship after her divorce, but the coupling falls apart, and she ends up alone again.
Anouka returns to the toxic confines of her parent’s home with each affair’s demise. Her parents want what’s best for her, in their opinion. But they only know traditional relationships, which haven’t worked for their daughter.
But Anouka meets a remarkable woman and begins an open and loving relationship, yet one she is embarrassed to show the world. She struggles with exposing this “non-traditional” relationship with her professional world and doesn’t realize the world may be accepting. She walks away from her one true love but soon understands feelings of the heart are all that matter.
“Let’s all try to be braver, bolder,” Anouka proclaims. In the end, she reveals she married her one true and shared a child. The audience recognizes she finally has a heart that is at peace.
Heart, Written and Performed by Jade Anouka,directed by Ola Ince;
scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado; costume design by Emily Rebholz; lighting design by Jen Schriever; sound design & additional original music by Fitz Patton; movement by Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster; and original music by Renell Shaw. Brian Bogin is the production stage manager; technical supervision by Hudson Theatrical Associates; general management by Andy Jones and Jonathan Whitton of Baseline Theatrical. Press representative by Boneau/Bryan Brown.
HEART begins performances on Saturday, July 9 with an official opening on Sunday, July 17 at The Minetta Lane Theatre(18 Minetta Lane, between MacDougal & 6th Avenue–one block south of W. 3rd Street), Audible’s creative home for live performances in New York. The limited engagement will run for five weeks only, through Sunday, August 14. Tickets are available online at (minettalanenyc.com)
The running time is approximately 70 minutes with no intermission.
As with previous Audible Theater shows at the Minetta Lane, Audible has recorded and released HEART as an Audible Original, extending its reach to millions of listeners around the world.