IF ANYTHING CAN BE SAID about the cast of Heart Beatings, the new musical written by Mark LaPierre, directed by Diane Englert, and currently in its world-premiere run at Coho Theater, it's that they have a lot of, well... heart. Sorry, and may that be the last pun about the body's most vital organ used in this review. If you want more, I suggest you go see Heart Beatings. Playwright LaPierre employs puns to cringe-worthy effect—so much so that in the final act of the show, Leah Yorkston, one of four actors who take on over 20 roles in the piece, broke character and shared in the audience's collective groan in reaction to a pun involving a character nicknamed Ahab who happens to be a "professional mourner." (If you guessed that the pun's operative word was "wail," you get a gold star.)
To say that Mark LaPierre's collection of six rom-com musical pieces is cleverly written is one thing. To say that the writing goes any deeper than a chuckle or a pandering sigh is another. In LaPierre's world, we don't follow a traditional narrative but instead go through several vignettes including a tense superhero on a honeymoon and a Koi fish who's debating suicide over fatherhood. It isn't that these ideas aren't fun or cute—the cast and writing convey the general cuteness very well. But I found myself wondering what these cute circumstances were doing to break new ground in a genre of theater where cuteness and fun have been completely exploited 10 times over. To be more specific: I was waiting for Heart Beatings to show me something new. It didn't.
The cast, however (remember them? I said that they had a strong cardiac muscle?), do their best by the material. Andrew Bray, Chrissy Kelly-Pettit, JP Latchaw, and Leah Yorkston share an infectious energy, and keep the pace moving even when they're plunging into moments of forced sentimentality. And when taking on roles beyond their age, type, or talent, the four young performers kept me in the play. I wish the writing had been able to do the same.