Your Dilly Dilly Heart

What do we really know about other people's pain? In Scott Gibson's newest work, Your Dilly Dilly Heart, now receiving its world premiere by Celebrationworks at the Ralph Waldo Emerson Center, we are tossed into the middle of a kidnapping that reveals four vastly different ways of coping with pain and, ultimately, the power of our love to healing suffering.

(Left to right) Nancy Thomas as Janis, Anthony Bianco as Beau, and Nita Froelich as  Merle
(L to R) Nancy Thomas as Janis,
Anthony Bianco as Beau,
and Nita Froelich as Merle
Photo: Celebrationworks
Beau (Anthony Bianco) is a troubled youth that has commandeered two mature women, Janis (Nancy Thomas) and Merle (Nita Froelich), on their annual road trip/vacation, and forces them to bring him to a remote community somewhere in the tornado belt of the Great Plains, where he hopes to reconnect with a girlfriend, Danielle (Catharine Pilafas).

In a motel room, an hour's drive from the destination, Beau attempts to orchestrate this reunion. He removes the telephone from the receiver and separates the women when he has to use the facilities.

Gibson uses a floating narrative, primarily Janis, to fill us in on some historical notes and psychological perspectives. Thomas is charming as the droll and refreshingly honest Janis, providing us with a rose-colored comedic lens through which to filter the sometimes desperate and contentious action.

While the lack of nurturing in his past clearly limits Beau's social skills, his street smarts tell him that Janis is the one to tie up when he is indisposed, since her accommodating nature makes it unlikely that she will run. Bianco's Beau is a smooth blend of petty thief, vulnerable orphan, and moonstruck adolescent.

On the other hand, Merle is clearly the biggest threat to Beau's control. Froelich plays the domineering battle axe like a drum, as Merle forces Janis to forego the rhubarb lemonade pie, dictates the itinerary, insists of driving, and tosses poison-tipped barbs at Beau.

Flashbacks float in and out of the Gibson's timeline like memories, effectively amplifying the emotional dynamics at critical moments. After the older woman are threatened with a knife, the lighting shifts and Danielle introduces herself and describes her infatuation with Beau, then a new student at her high school and a rebel without a cause. We see them meet in the cafeteria.

As Danielle, Pilafas' vivaciousness is contagious, infecting us with the excitement of first love, an illicit rendezvous and parentally unauthorized travel. If we're to take Gibson's title at face value and assume it references the 17th-century nursery rhyme and folk song, "Lavender Blue," Pilafas (through Danielle) certainly has the heart of the queen to which Beau is appealing.

Danielle's effect on Beau and, in turn, on Merle, is the redemptive throughline. In an inspired touch, director Bernie Cardell leaves us with the image of Merle's knowing smile, which brought some audience members to beg Gibson for a sequel.

On opening night, there were a few scenes where the lines were coming more from rote than character, and there are still patches where showing needs to alleviate some telling, but overall this is a sweet, slice-of-life piece that encourages us to look into our own hearts and spread the love.

Celebrationworks world premiere of Scott Gibson's Your Dilly Dilly Heart runs through February 13th at the Ralph Waldo Emerson Center. 303-282-5391.

Bob Bows


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