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Review: ‘Hearts Like Fists’ is the show that does it all

Photo via Bradley University Theatre

Look, in the Hartmann Center – it’s a romance. No, it’s a comedy. No, it’s a mystery. It’s a thriller. 

Directed by professor Scott Kanoff and performed by Bradley University Theatre, “Hearts Like Fists” feels like a combination of “The Batman” and “Grey’s Anatomy” against a backdrop of primary colors. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s what makes it such a fun ride.

The play follows the story of Lisa, played by Samantha Macauley, as she gets wrapped up in a murder mystery and a budding romance with a doctor named Peter and a group of superheroes aptly named The Crime Fighters. Macauley does a great job of portraying this bold serial heartbreaker, but the story of Lisa was by far the least interesting plotline.

I was much more intrigued by the forbidden love of one of The Crime Fighters named Nina, played by Victoria Rusniak. Throughout the show, she and her team are fighting against the evil Dr. X, but she inexplicably falls in love with him along the way. The interactions between them are raunchy and believable while maintaining the satirical tone of the play.

The character Dr. X, played by Ean Silva, was my favorite part of the show. His opening monologue that sets up his motivations and backstory pulls you right into the action. Silva’s heartbroken delivery adds sympathy to an otherwise irredeemable character.

Dr. X is paralleled by the other male lead, Peter, played by Addison Lambert. Peter is the shy, yet charming, love interest of our lead, Lisa. As he nears the completion of his life’s work – the making of an artificial heart– he tries to protect himself from heartbreak.

Peter is the foil of Dr. X, and the set design was very effective in this dynamic. The multi-level set is simple and largely immobile. The piece that is used as Dr. X’s hideout doubles as Peter’s office, and in this room they have almost identical monologues about their work. They struggle with similar issues of the heart in contrasting ways. While Dr. X deals with his heartbreak by killing unsuspecting lovers, Peter builds hearts that can save lives by being strong enough to withstand that heartbreak.

Another heartbreak we follow is The Nurse, played by Sabrina Soto. The Nurse works with Peter at the hospital and spends the show trying and failing to woo him. The Nurse is much more relatable than Lisa, whose main struggle throughout the show is that people love her too much. Unfortunately, this sets the audience up to root against Lisa. By the end of the show, I was hoping Peter would just stay single.

The goofy cast of characters, bright colors and impressive fight choreography make for a fun and engaging show. Overall, the fact that “Hearts Like Fists” tries to balance so many plates isn’t a detriment. The show takes you back to Saturday morning cartoons in a way that is natural and exciting.

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