A Jewel of a Story, with Great Performances
By Iride Aparicio

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SILICON VALLEY, CA --  Produced by CATHY SPILBERGER CASSETTA, written by  Playwright SEAN GRENNAN, and directed by  DOUG BAIRD,  "The TIN WOMAN" presented at The TABARD THEATRE COMPANY  in Downtown  San José, is one of those plays with such a "unique" plot that it remains in our minds after we leave the theatre.

The play is about the Borden family, the middle-class American family of  Hank (RICHARD HOLMAN) his wife Alice (CAROLYN FORD COMPTON) their daughter Sammy (MANDY HEISER) and their son Jack (ANDY COOPERFAUSS).

Hank  and Alice

The play opens with  taciturn  Hank (HOLMAN) sitting on a chair with both his eyes fixated in something in front of him, that we cannot see.

The next scene transports us to the inside of a hospital room. The patient, laying on the  hospital bed, is Joy (JESSICA WHITTEMORE) a young girl, apparently still sleep after the anesthesia. A cheerful nurse (JAMIE GUSSMAN) carrying a food tray in her hand, approaches her and gently wakes her up. When she opens her eyes, the nurse encourages her to eat. Sounding as she is still in stupor, the girl starts complaining  because the nurse woke her up. Standing nearby, in perfect silence Jack, (COOPERFAUSS) observes the action.

The rapid sequence of the short  scenes make us wonder. Who are these people? Who is this sad-looking silent young man who keeps staring at Joy?  We can tell that he cares for her because shortly after she went back to sleep, he approached her and tenderly covered her with a blanket. Why are the characters in this play silent? What type of play are we watching?

We need to be patient.  Slowly, we will learn the answers.  This  play, may be compared to a movie camera that, at first, focuses its lenses on different subjects at random before adjusting them to a Close Up  that let us understand the action.

Another scene.  As Hank sits on his chair he is approached by his wife and his daughter dressed in black. Alice  asks  him  "what are you doing here?"  He does not answer.

Back in the hospital room, we see the nurse and her patient, this time, the girl is looking better. We now learn that her name is Joy  (WHITTEMORE) and that she is recuperating from the traumatic operation of a heart transplant.

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Hank (Richard Holman) Listens to Joy's (Whittemore) heart
    as Jack (standing in the background) observes the action.

During a short conversation, with her nurse, Joy  tells her that she feels  guilty because she knows that  another person (the heart's donor) had to die, so that she could live.  "I want to know the name of my heart donor' she says but protocol does not allow the nurse to give it to her.

We learn more about Joy when her friend Darla (GUSSMAN) come to visit her. Joy works as graphic artist. Apparently she drank, at one time, because when Darla offers her a drink from a bottle, she informs her that because of her operation she won't be able to drink for a while. Joy has no family. Her father abandoned both her mother and her, and later her mother abandoned her. She lives alone.

Joy discovered the name of her heart's donor and wants to contact  his family, but she get discouraged by Darla (JAMIE GUSSMAN) Joy changes her mind.  But something mysterious happens to Darla, so instead of leaving the hospital she returns to talk with Joy.

The scene changes to show us the inside of the tastefully-decorated   living room and dining room in the  house of a m the BORDEN's family,

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L-R Hank (Holman) Andy (Cooperfauss) Sammy (Heiser and Alice (Ford Compton)

Hank is fighting with his son because he has changed his major in college three times and does not seem to know what he wants to do with his life.  Hank is also fighting with his daughter, a teacher, because she shares all their family secrets online. What happens when Joy meets  the members of this dysfunctional family will surprise you.

The acting of every actor in this play is seamless. Each actor  impersonated his or her character well and was able to convey realism to their performances. The play attracts our attention from beginning to end.  As for the  theme of the play, a heart transplant, what happens in the play  leaves  the audience thinking.

Does a donated heart makes the donor and the receiver one person?

Science has proved that DNA does not control our biology. DNA is controlled by signals from outside the cell including the energetic messages that emanate for our positive and negative thoughts, which may indicate that our bodies can be changed, as we retrain or thinking.

In Change of Heart, her memoir, dancer CLAIRE SYLVIA admits that after her heart transplant she started craving for the food, that she learned later on, was the food that her heart's donor liked. So, she concluded that it is possible for two souls to merge in one body.

But perhaps the most interesting theory is the one written by PAUL PEARSALL, PhD. which is based on a synthesis of ancient wisdom (not on medical knowledge)The theory proved that the human heart, not the brain holds the secrets that link body, mind and spirit. "The heart is more than just a pump," writes PEARSALL,  "it conducts the cellular symphony that is the very essence of our being."

Along with the "unique' story in this Jewel of a play,  reading the many theories about heart transplant's patients, will give all of us something to think about.

THE TIN WOMAN will continue playing at THE TABARD THEATRE COMPANY 29 N. San Pedro Street Downtown San Jose until November 17. For information or to order tickets call (408)679-2330 or go online to