SALT LAKE CITY — The Heart: Feeling in a Modern World, is a new play presented the last two weeks at the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival. It was a new style of one-man theatre for me, described by actor Kaltin Kirby as “verbatim theatre.” The show is based upon interviews of various individuals who were asked certain questions regarding emotions, and their answers are presented as they were give, with all the nuances and idiosyncrasies of each interviewee preserved in the original form, which Kirby attempted to recreate as a different character on stage. Director Paul Chaus and Kirby put together an authentic look at how people interpret their own emotions and what it tells us about the character and understanding of each person.
Kirby is an intriguing performer, and has a good command of becoming a different character at a moment’s notice, an essential skill for a one person show. However, there were technically difficulties during the evening that made the show difficult to follow. Each of the questions that were asked had been played over a computer speaker, and only some of the questions were audible enough to be understood. This made it difficult to understand the characterization that Kirby was trying to portray, or why the answers or stories being told had any relevance.
Additionally, while the idea of changing a bit of costuming with each character has some merit, for this show I found the choice to be distracting rather than beneficial. I would have preferred to just watch as Kirby changed facial expressions and body language rather than taking the time and effort to switch shoes or an item of clothing. The words themselves and the manner in which they were delivered were powerful enough to impress upon the audience the different characterization.
Yet, the show was an excellent exploration of human and emotional understanding. Focusing on the story and the delivery of the message seems to be the best way to disseminate the theme effectively.