Intersecting lives illuminate commonalities in Courtney Baron’s ‘Eat Your Heart Out’.
Once upon a time, playwright Courtney Baron wanted to be a neurosurgeon. But, as she puts it, “I was a terrible student, barely graduated from high school, and I fell in love with writing.” While she never made it to medical school, the mysteries of mind and body continued to fascinate her — and provide a launching pad for her creative efforts. In graduate school, she wrote a piece about a man suffering from insomnia so severe it was fatal (an actual malady). Later, her piece “Here I Lie” referenced factitious disorders, in which individuals feign illness. “Eat Your Heart Out” — celebrating its Chicago premiere this week in a Rivendell Theatre Ensemble production — came to be after Baron read about Broken Heart Syndrome, a temporary cardiac condition brought on by stress, such as the death of a loved one.
“I initially set out to write about a few different characters with this syndrome,” says Baron, “but I realized pretty early on that I was more interested in simply how we deal with broken hearts and how many of us are the catalysts for breaking our own hearts by getting in our own way.”
“Eat Your Heart Out” weaves together the lives of folks who, at first, seem to operate on distinctly different tracks. The lynchpin of the action is Nance, a divorced social worker balancing her job helping a childless couple, the needs of her overweight teenage daughter and her own search for a meaningful relationship. “All the different hats we all have to wear can be exhausting and confusing,” says Baron. “When [viewers] watch this character travel from scene to scene, I hope [they] will come to see how complicated it feels, but how simple it could all be if we could all just love ourselves and our faults a little bit more.”
Loneliness and longing are never fun, but Baron’s musing on them is not without its lighter moments. As director Hallie Gordon observes, “All these people are brokenhearted in different ways, and that makes it so difficult for them to connect with each other. They are each afraid, so they put up these walls. We get to peer into their lives and watch the walls crumble and see them as vulnerable human beings. These characters are true to life, and from their awkwardness and fear comes humor — because without that, how do we survive the challenges that life throws us?”
‘Eat Your Heart Out’: May 31-June 28. $20 through May 30; $30 thereafter. Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5779 N. Ridge. For tickets, call (773) 334-7728 or visit Rivendelltheatre.org.
Pictured above: Anne Joy and Andrew Goetten rehearse a scene.
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