Is There a Doctor in the House? Reflecting on Dr. Glassheart

By BART GREENBERG****Attending a performance of Dr. Glassheart is akin to travelling back in time to the “anything goes and the kitchen sink” heyday of off-off-Broadway of the 1960s. Purportedly a satire of the health care system in the United States, it also has scattershot attacks on politics, immigration, veterans and… well, the kitchen sink. The production is as haphazard as its themes, with seemingly improvised dialogue and occasional seemingly spontaneous disagreements among the participants.

Glassheart isn’t exactly new; there have been several previous incarnations around the city. But this most recent production, the first in Manhattan, was staged at The Tank, a superior multi-performance space location on the west side, on the weekend of November 10. With the audience seated on three sides of the playing area, the unmiked performers were, at times, difficult to hear, especially when competing with the previous recorded musical score. Koley Caron was billed as director, although for the most part the movement seemed improvisational, verging on the random.

The entire evening is the creation of Jason Trachenburg, who also served as the “Narrator” for the evening, both attempting to explain the often-convoluted plotline and also commenting upon it, as well as moving scenery, arguing with actors and bemoaning the lack of a budget. His strongest talent seems to be as a compose,r offering melodies that were often clever pastiche, echoing songs of the ’50s and ’60s, and touching on the style of composers such as Charles Strouse, Kurt Weill and favorites of the Big Band era. The music was provided, pre-taped, by the excellent big band called The Pendulum Swings.

The strongest performance was offered by Joe Crow Ryan as “Rico (from Puerto Rico)”, a homeless man who somehow becomes a political bigwig. Roaring on stage, he brought theatrical energy and verbal clarity, both of which were very welcome. Mike Amato also had his moments as the unnamed but recognizable “President of the U.S.A.”

As to the future for this work, it depends if Trachtenberg can provide more focus to the work so that the audience can go along on the journey he seems to hope to take them on without working so hard.