It’s Philadelphia Theater Week, and locals are enjoying an array of shows across a wide spectrum of genres and venues. May I point out one that might be small enough you will not have noticed? It’s Curio’s I Heart Alice Heart I, and I say without exaggeration that in the Calvary Center at 48th and Baltimore, actress Trice Baldwin-Browns is giving a performance that—if this were Broadway—would make her a shoo-in for the Tony. (Her partner actress, Aetna Gallagher, is very nearly as good.)
I almost hesitate to call it a “performance,” since that suggests something skillfully conjured. It is exactly that, of course—but the miraculous thing is that Baldwin-Browns appears so free of artifice. She has the priceless, unteachable gift, exceedingly rare in acting, of seeming to be utterly ordinary. In this context, that is absolutely extraordinary.
Baldwin-Browns is Alice Kinsella, one of two Alices here; Gallagher is the other, named Alice Slattery. They are an Irish couple in late middle age, and the conceit of Amy Conroy’s beguiling play has an unseen doppelganger playwright, charmed when she catches sight of the two kissing surreptitiously in a market, asking them to record their memories for posterity. Yes, they are lesbians—but shhhh!: that’s a word that Slattery, at least, has had trouble adjusting to.
But time has brought a level of comfort and ease. The Alices are now ready to share their stories… and for the next 70 minutes or so, they do. Oh, there’s nothing epic here. Expect trips to the grocery store, a few vacation splurges, and some minor squabbles. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing delightedly, and also tearing up… maybe at the same time.
The very smallness of I Heart Alice Heart I is what makes the show so sublime. Everything about the scale here is just right: the intimate room, the easy sense of conversation, the grace and naturalness of the cast. (Kudos also to co-directors Gay Carducci and Rachel Gluck.) There’s not a lot to Alice, but it’s absolutely enchanting. Mother Teresa’s famous advice—to do small things with great love—might apply.
And that’s all you’ll get from me—you should have the joy of discovering the rest for yourself. This small thing with great love is on stage till the end of the month. If you miss it, you’ll be making a very big mistake.
I Heart Alice Heart I plays through February 29. For more information, visit the Curio Theatre Company website.