Heartbreak House

garret dillahunt,heartbreak house,berkshire theatre festivalHEARTBREAK HOUSE

Character: Hector Hushabye

Berkshire Theatre Festival, Main Stage

July 13 – July 24, 2004


George Bernard Shaw


Anders Cato


Garret Dillahunt (Hector Hushabye), Allyn Burrows (Randall), Sarah Drew (Ellie Dunn), Marin Hinkle (Hesione Hushabye), John Horton (Captain Shotover), Patrick Husted (Mazzini Dunn), Elizabeth Ingram (Nurse Guinness), Sarah Knowlton (Ariadne), David Schramm (Mangan)



Completed in May 1917 but not performed until 1920 in New York and a year later in London, “Heartbreak House” grew out of playwright George Bernard Shaw’s anger and despair over World War I.

A pacifist, Shaw placed as much blame on England and its allies for the outbreak of World War I as he did Germany. He staked out his position in a 1914 pamphlet, “Common Sense About the War,” in which he called for the immediate start of peace negotiations. He pursued his argument in countless speeches, essays, political tracts and pamphlets. He was bitterly, often violently, denounced as being unpatriotic.

“More and more, I think it’s his greatest play,” said director Anders Cato, whose production of “Heartbreak House” opened last night on the Berkshire Theatre Festival’s Main Stage. His cast includes Marin Hinkle, Allyn Burrows, David Schramm, Garret Dillahunt from the HBO series, “Deadwood,” and John Horton in the role of octogenarian Captain Shotover, on whose English countryside estate “Heartbreak House” unfolds. Keep reading


Like any country house comedy, this one begins with the arrival of a guest. That guest, a young woman named Ellie Dunn (Sarah Drew), has been invited by Shotover’s lovely Bohemian daughter, Hesione Hushabye (Marin Hinkle), who lives with her father (and off the royalties from his inventions) along with her handsome, incurably flirtatious and prevaricating husband Hector (Garret Dillahunt, playing what today might be described as a middle-aged boy toy).

Once we’ve met the outspoken family retainer Nurse Guinness (Elizabeth Ingram) and hear a few of Captain Shotover’s aphoristic pronouncements, various other residents and visitors arrive. Thus we meet Hesione, who’s invited Ellie’s father (Patrick Husted) and a rich industrialist named Boss Mangan (David Schramm), in order to break up the loveless May-December engagment between him and Ellie. While Hesione was unaware that her husband had a previous meeting with Ellie (adding a made-up name to his made-up tales of adventure), she is neither surprised or upset. To round out the party, Shotover’s long absent and very conventional younger daughter, Lady Ariadne Utterwood (Sarah Knowlton), arrives, followed by her wimpish brother-in-law (Allyn Burrows).

For two and a half hours these larger than life people walk in one door and out of another, always stopping long enough to discuss culture, business, love, marriage — in short, all the issues Shaw was passionate about. Under Cato’s direction, the nine actors are generally on the mark in interpreting the darker shades beneath their characters’ often laugh aloud doings.

Marin Hinkle, an actress whose career has gone from strength to strength, is marvelously expressive as the Bohemian Hesione, so much so that it seems curmudgeonly to complain that her voice projection at times causes the audience to miss nuggets of dialogue. As Ellie Dunn, the young woman Hesione has befriended and is determined to save from a loveless marriage, Sarah Drew conveys just the right mix of innocence and iron. Also excellent is Sarah Knowlton as Hesione’s acerbic and very proper younger sister Ariadne Utterwood, a woman who’s not too proper to engage in some improprieties with both her brothers-in-law — Garret Dillahunt, ably capturing the melancholy beneath the the incorrigibly flirtatious Hector Hushabye; and Allyn Burrows’ at once funny and pitiful Randall Utterwood with whom Ariadne engages in a cruel game of sexual one-upmanship. [Curtain Up]

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