Best of 2006: Particularly in the Heartland

A wonderful cocktail of emotions

archive review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 09 Jul 2007
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A gloriously shambolic play of epic proportions, Particularly in the Heartland is likely to relieve many fans of the TEAM and its director Rachel Chavkin. Recipients of a Fringe First in 2005, it attempts, successfully, a portrayal of the reality of American life in completely fantastical fashion. Set in Kansas, what first appears to be a storm turns out to be the Rapture. The three Springer children, bereft of their parents, must deal with being 'left behind' and they embark on a semi-spiritual journey that is both bizarre and enriching. They encounter and adopt into their home three mystifying figures: the pregnant Tracey Jo (an alien in disguise), big-city financier Dorothy (the survivor of a plane crash) and, with the most amusing consequences, the ghost of Bobby Kennedy.

It is a wonderful cocktail of emotions, but what makes Particularly in the Heartland so engrossing is not only its comedic take on millennialism but that, as the Springer children are left behind, so too are the audience. We follow the ludicrous twists and turns of their post-Rapture existence somewhat aimlessly, utterly absorbed but begging to ask just one question – what in the name of Christ is going on? When Sarah Springer, the oldest child, gives us a chance to ask her exactly this, the result is merely silent shock at her bravery. We cannot summon the same courage and, ultimately, our question goes forever unanswered.

The six-member cast are, without exception, outstanding, their lively charm rebounding off each other and infecting the crowd. But there are seven characters in this story, with Chavkin’s directorial presence always felt as the primary guiding force in this hilarious cosmic chaos.

Towards the end, Anna Springer, the youngest child, is filled with fear at the prospect of a similar fate as Scrooge at the start of A Christmas Carol. Always desirous of God’s love, she asks hopefully, “Are we good?” The answer is, of course, a completely baffled but wholly emphatic yes.