October 10, 2003



reviewed by
Lynn Trenning











For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.
For more about Theatre Charlotte, please visit theatrecharlotte.org.

There is potential for hilarity when a woman has a nervous breakdown and emerges with the character traits of an insecure dog. In Heartworm, written by local playwright Nancy Hightower, and directed by Maggie Maes, the humor is negated by the insurmountable flaws that burden the majority of the play’s characters.

Heartworm attempts to be a romantic comedy with an unusual twist. It comes across as a loopy soap opera with unconventional elements. The ActorsLoftTheatreCo. NYC is advertising the production at Theatre Charlotte as a sneak preview of the Off-Broadway World Premiere. If so, it speaks to the vast number of available spaces in New York.

Sweet, trusting Susie is devastated when her fiancé tosses her over for her sister Martha. Susie, as guileless as a golden retriever, agrees to stand up in the wedding. But her psyche gets the best of her, and within weeks she adopts the mannerisms of an angry dog.

Martha feels so guilty that she and Brian accept the 'dog' as their pet. This leads to psychiatric visits with the uptight Dr. Agatha Slocum, who uses the opportunity to contact her love interest, Dr. Ross, who happens to be a dog specialist. Got it?

Thank heavens for Sheila Snow Proctor, who elevates the play in her role as Susie. Proctor sniffs, scratches, fetches and bites, depending on her mood. Her mauling of a steak bone in a restaurant, and her attack of the priest, played by Joe Copley, are the show’s shining moments.

Proctor’s performance is admirable for its consistency and underlying vulnerability. But in the context of a comedy, her behavior is uncomfortably debased, as she grovels and whimpers at the feet of her masters.

Martha, played by Virginia Spykerman, is a whiner and doesn’t have any funny lines. What’s to like? As Brian, Marshall Case has more chutzpah than makes sense for his character (why oh why did he dump Susie for Martha?). Dr. Elizabeth Peterson-Vita plays Dr. Slocum. Despite being a Ph.D. in real life, she’s as uncomfortable in the role as a cat in a bathtub.

Dance interludes performed by do-wop dancers Ashley Bryan and Douglas Spagnolia, and young ballerinas Alyssa Daerr and Emily Hightower help refocus the attention of the audience.

Lynn Trenning, October 10, 2003

[ArtSavant link]
© 2000 - 2001 ArtSavant - enquiries to info@artsavant.com