Flux Theatre Ensemble @ The Secret Theatre
44-02 23rd Street
Long Island City, NY
through December 15, 2012
Running Time: 100 minutes (no intermission)
At the heart of this play of extremes is the tentative relationship between heart-stopping Lisa (a confident Marnie Schulenburg), who is paid to avoid construction sites lest she cause wolf-whistling men to fall to their death, and the fragile Peter (Chinaza Uche), whose good-natured heart has been broken so often that he's working overtime to craft an artificial replacement. Fearing rejection, Peter ends up bailing on Lisa -- who's never been abandoned before -- and this role-reversal leads to a complicated courtship, one that's filled with increasing danger once the purposeless Lisa joins up with a trio of female Crimefighters (Becky Byers, Rachael Hip-Flores, and Aja Houston) to thwart Doctor X's romantic murders. But Szymkowicz has grown from earlier, over-the-top stabs at such subject matter (Nerve springs to mind), and while there are still some exaggerated and underwhelming scenarios on the fringes of the play (one of the Crimefighters plans to rekindle her romance with the Commissioner [Chris Wight]; Susan Louise O'Connor plays a hysterical [in both senses] nurse who pines for one doctor while being lusted after by another), Hearts Like Fists works best when it takes its emotions seriously and allows the poetic writing to go for the laughs: "A big boat of depression just sailing over my chest"; "You're building a wall around your candy shell; you're afraid I might eat it!"
In one of the cleverer echoes of the play, Doctor X and Peter sound off about the joys of having an obsession: "I don't have to think while I'm working. I don't have to feel." Thanks to Kelly O'Donnell's consistent direction and Adam Swiderski's humorous and exhausting fight choreography, the cast of Hearts Like Fists doesn't have to think while working, though they're clearly more than able to feel, which is the beating strength of this production.