The poet Joyce Kilmer once stated that he had never seen a poem as lovely as tree—and then went on to write just that—a lovely poem.
Judith Partelow has written a poem as lovely as a play, and in fact it is a play, one that celebrates words and verse over action, yet still leaves its audience emotionally spent at its conclusion.
“A Woman’s Heart” is being performed in the Black Box Theater at the Cotuit Center for the Arts through September 29. Performances are at 7:30 PM on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and at 2 PM on Sundays.
The play features Ms. Partelow, along with Dana McCoy and Rod Owens, and while the program notes list Ms. Partelow as the writer and developer of the play, it’s evident that the production has been an evolving labor of love not only for Ms. Partelow, but for Ms. McCoy and Mr. Owens, who also played significant parts in its development.
The story is set in the present. It opens at a 50-year class reunion that brings back together our three protagonists and fellow classmates. The trio marvel at the brief time they were together and how that time, so many years ago, has molded their lives going forward. The action then travels back in time as the three friends tell of their lives and how they intersected with those of their classmates, went off on their own paths, and finally returned home again.
Out-of-touch parents, first loves, first marriages, travel, children, the daily grind, mistakes, regrets and uncertainties are all touched upon and lovingly examined. The catch is that the play is written entirely as a piece of prose, making it feel like an epic poem, wherein the minutia of the everyday is elevated to Odysseus-like significance.
That two of the collaborators have provided original music for the show also elevates the play. Ms. McCoy and Ms. Partelow are given credit for the show’s story and direction; Ms. McCoy, Mr. Owens and Amanda Sevak are credited with the original music—with scoring and instrumental music composition by Ms. McCoy. Ms. McCoy and Mr. Owens take turns singing and playing guitar.
The play feels both extremely personal (a feeling that is enhanced by the natural intimacy of the Black Box Theater) and also universal. While its three protagonists all identify as baby boomers, anyone with a bit of life experience will find relatable situations among the many that are presented. Scattered throughout the play are truisms such as “I love you isn’t always said with words.” Acceptance of one’s self is the universal theme.
Even hoarding gets its few minutes of discussion and elevation. “I do not hoard,” says Ms. Partelow, “but hesitate before disposal. Could it have another life? I certainly have.”
It takes a few minutes to adjust to the sing-song quality of the words that are being spoken but once you do, you’ll fall into it. “A Woman’s Heart” is a play to be listened to and digested.
The play feels honest and raw in its emotion but polished in its delivery. While it’s dialogue-heavy, it isn’t weighed down by too many words. On the contrary, Ms. Partelow has chosen only the right words, editing away the superfluous.
In addition to delivering their lines effectively, the three performers express many emotions subtly, with slight gestures and glances, a raised eyebrow here, a longing gaze there. Props and costumes are also minimal: a pair of dog tags, an apron, different tablecloths to represent a café versus an upscale eatery.
At just under 90 minutes, “A Woman’s Heart” is performed without an intermission. Tickets are $20, $15 for members of the center.