John Patrick’s “The Hasty Heart,” at the Hale Center Theater Orem through July 23, gets its title from an old saying: “Sorrow is born in a hasty heart.”
It is that sort of hastiness that the main character, Lachlan (Elwon Bakly), seeks to avoid in this tenderhearted show, which the Hale program accurately describes as a “gentle comedy.”
Lachlan is a Scottish soldier who lost a kidney while fighting in World War II. His remaining kidney is failing, which means he will soon die — a fact he has not been made aware of by the well-meaning colonel (Lon Keith), who wants Lachlan to spend his last days in happiness.
To that end, he’s been put in a British military hospital in Burma with a diverse group of non-critical fellow patients who have been commissioned to keep his spirits up. This is no easy task, though, given Lachlan’s surliness, cynicism and general disdain for everyone.
The ward is full of congenial soldiers from all around the world. Yank (Mitch Hall; double-cast with Curt Doussett) is an American who bristles at the nickname, since he’s from Georgia; Digger (Jake Suazo; double-cast with David Gilliland) is a goofy Australian; Kiwi (Brinton Wilkins) comes from New Zealand; Tommy (David Hanson) is from England and has the character trait of being fat; and Blossom (Niankora Yeah Samake) is an African who speaks only one word of English: blossom.
They’re all cared for by a fetching young nurse named Margaret (Emily Millett). Her character remains a bit flat throughout, despite her increasing emotional involvement with the patients; she remains winsome, though, and an effective moderator in the midst of the all the bickering that inevitably occurs.
Elwon Bakly, a newcomer to the area, is superb as Lachlan. Bakly broods, he rants, he grouses — then, when Lachlan’s heart is softened, he carries out several sweetly painful attempts at reconciliation that make for some of the play’s nicest moments.
The entire ensemble works well together, under the direction of Maureen Eastwood. You’d expect to have some trouble spots in a show full of accents, but the dialects remain strong throughout.
One problem is the music used in the show. It is fine as a transition between scenes, but it is also used to punctuate emotional moments within the dialogue. It’s a bit too cinematic for a stage play, particularly when the actors seem capable of conveying the proper emotions without the music doing it for them.
The whole thing has an air of tragedy about it, since we know of Lachlan’s condition. But there are light moments, too — notably, the joke the play ends with, which would be uproarious in different circumstances but which seems crass as the final note in an otherwise genteel show.
The Hale Center Theater continued to earn its reputation as Favorite Theater Among Deaf People with the performance I watched. An elderly couple sat together on the north side of the theater and told each other lines throughout most of the first act, having to speak in a voice louder than a whisper in order to make themselves clear. We'll pretend this was "sweet."