It’s been almost two years since I was first introduced to Mind The Art Entertainment and the work of Christian De Gré with “Beware The Chupacabra!” at the Fringe Festival in 2015. I remember that show, because it was over two hours with no intermission and it didn’t matter. I was entertained, not impressed, but had a lot of fun. You have to appreciate when you are having a good time with an audience, all together, as a community. Two months later, “Fatty Fatty No Friends” was in production and, again, I was part of the audience. This time not only was I having a grand old time, but I was blown away by the powerful production. Last year, I had the honor to review a musical revue of De Gre’s work and witness his evolution on stage. What seemed to have started as a musical artist deeply inspired by gothic aesthetics and playful numbers was now growing to hit more personal themes, with a subdued style. On Thursday, his latest work “Jack of Hearts, Master of None” opened at the HERE Arts Center, putting on display his most intimate work and showing us a new side of himself.
While his shows have often explored themes that affect our society with larger than life characters and out of this world narrative, “Jack of Hearts, Master of None” keeps it simple while digging into a larger theme than any before. Love. Love and loneliness. Love and carelessness. Love and missed opportunities. Love, and the mistakes we make in the name of it. Jack, in all his glory, is a tragic character. One that we know so well, one that strikes an incredible resemblance to the most interesting people in the world. For Jack, the question of what is love if not a game is one he lives his life by. For Jack, looking for his perfect hand has kept him away from the real prize. And for Jack, the realization of his life comes a bit too late. And we are with him, through each and every beat, wincing since the first note. Engrossed. Hypnotized.
Playing Jack, is none other than Aaron Ramey (The Bridge of Madison County), who instills the nuances and the charm such a character needs for us to hook ourselves to them and feel their journey. Each song gets us closer to his true self, and the closer we get to know him, the closer he gets to know himself. By the end, we both reach the same conclusion, and that’s where the heartbreak lies. Beside him is the fantastic Charly Dannis, playing his every interest with such conviction that we fall in love with each iteration. With every song, she threatens to steal the show. Their moment in the middle of the show, where a miscarriage happened, had a lot of the audience beyond touched. There were tears everywhere!
The direction by Brian Freeland merged excellently with De Gre’s aesthetic. Using the goth art that inspired his previous operettas, “Jack Of Hearts, Master of None” creates a different atmosphere with it. It shows the illusion of love as a rabbit hole that we build with our decisions. This generates some powerful visuals to accompany the exquisite music. While the space itself gave us certain problems with being able to hear the actors at times, their acting and movement gave us enough to never get lost. The stage and lighting produced something equally as mesmerizing.
The play is a transitional play from an author reaching a new level of maturity. And as such, some moments are not as strong as others. Yet, it feels like this is what his career has been moving towards. And we should be happy for it, as this more subtle way of storytelling is his most uncompromising, and fundamentally generates a more potent production. The show will be at the HERE Arts Center until February 4. Do not miss this show.
Out of 4 stars:
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