Hearts like Fists – Adam Szymkowicz

Opened at Theatre of NOTE in Los Angeles, August 3, 2012; subsequent New York production opened on December 1, 2012 by Flux Theatre Ensemble at the Secret Theatre.


Original Cast:

Lisa:  Lauren Dobbins Webb
Peter:  Rick Steadman
Doctor X:  Keith Allan
Nina:  Alysha Brady
Sally:  Jennifer Lee Weaver
Jazmin:  Alina Phelan
Nurse: Grace Eboigbe
Stage Ninja 1:  Dan Wingard
Stage Nina 2:  Pierce Baird

Director:  Jaime Robledo


Lisa:  a crimestopper, female
Peter:  a heart doctor, male
Doctor X:  eveil but misunderstood, male
Nina:  a Crimefighter, female
Sally:  a Crimefighter, female
Jazmin:  a Crimefighter, female
Nurse:  a nurse, female
The Commissioner:  played by the actor who plays Doctor X
Man:  played by the actor who plays Peter
Woman:  played by the actor who plays Nurse
Girl:  played by the actor who plays Jazmin
Carson:  played by the actor who plays Doctor X
Ed:  played by the actor who plays Peter

Note:  Actors can be any race.


Publication:  Szymkowicz, Adam. Hearts like Fists. Dramatists Play Service, 2013. Drama Library PS3619.Z965 H43 2013.


Setting:  New York City; now

Language:  Contemporary


I’m going to be late to my date. But I ran out of fabric softener. Should I go get the fabric softener and be a little later and then carry it around on the date? Or should I just go without it and have clothes that aren’t as soft?

Genre/Style:  Comedy

Plot:   [From the published text.] A superhero noir comedy about the dangers of love.

Lisa, who is so beautiful she causes men to fall to their deaths, falls in love with Peter, a doctor who is obsessed with creating an artificial heart so that no one suffers a broken heart.  She also happens to be the only civilian to survive a fight with arch villain Doctor X—who was once an ordinary doctor who fell in love with a one-night stand and got his heart broken, so now he poisons couples in their sleep.  As a result of Lisa’s fight with Doctor X, she’s asked to join the Crimefighters, a trio of female superheroes who fight crime by night and are nurses by day.  Will Lisa and Peter find happiness?  Will Peter perfect his artificial heart?  Will Doctor X ever find the woman with a face like a plate and end his reign of terror?  Will the Crimefighters be able to stop Doctor X and find happiness of their own?  All will be revealed…


Representative Monologues:  Mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.

p. 7:  Prologue.  Doctor X monologues regarding his origins as a super villain.  It was all because of the woman with a face like a plate. Long monologue. 

Spotlight on Doctor X, a truly terrible creature with sunken eyes and deep scars all over. Disfigured, stethoscope around the neck, wearing a doctor’s lab coat, carrying a doctor’s bag.


I have a face like a bowl of worms. Squirming around the ticks, the scars, the moles. It’s disgusting. A face like this. It’s absurd, without meaning or purpose. And I honestly can’t say if I’m an experiment gone awry or if I was just born this way. [lines cut] I didn’t know you weren’t drunk on me. How could I have missed the diagnosis? How could I have avoided the bald shock, the morning discovery, to wake up and find your note? And now I can’t remember anything except you. Your face everywhere I go. You will pay. Everyone will pay. You will all pay dearly.

p. 17-18: Peter and Lisa are on a date when the Crimefighters approach Lisa about joining their group. While they’re in the bathroom conferencing, he debates the merits of getting involved with her. In fact, he is terrified of the idea of falling in love with her.   


She will hurt you. She will break you over her knee. She will hurt you and she will tear you and she will rip you apart. Who are you that you think you can withstand her? You are just a man. You are a vulnerable man with tiny veins and blood rushing through your too fast. [lines cut] She will break you. She will hurt you and tear you and break you and pull you until there will be nothing of you left. She will—

Peter stands. He takes his coat and leaves the restaurant.

p. 23: Lisa is reeling from her first rejection. Short monologue.

Lisa walks down the street in a fog. Sound of men whistling and catcalls. She keeps walking. A car screeching and a huge crash as the car hits something. Car alarms.


Sorry. (Lisa continues to walk. As she speaks, there may be more catcalls, sounds of men walking into posts and mailboxes.)  What is this feeling, so unpleasant, like my insides rotting or my outside melting? There is a bad taste in my mouth that won’t go away. I feel itchy and oversized and everything is crawling. Is this what rejection is? [lines cut] He knows I’m no good. I could have fought Doctor X harder. I could have climbed the fire escape faster maybe. Or I could have tried harder to love them back. If I had made myself maybe or—

p. 48: Peter has completed his artificial heart. Moderate length monologue.

 Peter in his workshop in the hospital, takes an artificial heart out of a box. It beats. 


Here you are, my spare heart. Mother said, always have a spare. You never know, she said. Do everything twice. Just in case. Always have an extra pencil. Always bring an extra sandwich. And give it away if you can. To the kid with the torn jacket who smells like pee. [lines cut] You will be the circulatory saver of this world. But right now, I’m the one in need of your help. I’m the kid with the torn jacket, except the jacket is a heart. Tomorrow, they will crack my chest open and put you inside, and then I will never need to be afraid again.


Representative Scenes: 

p. 21-22: The origin of Doctor X, supervillain. Starts with

Nurse moves into another scene where Doctor X is in the bed. Nurse gets under the sheets with him. This is a flashback. They are post-coital. .


Well, that was—

and ends with


No, I won’t. I won’t let you go. Never let you go. Never. Never. (Nurse gets up and walks away. The flashback ends. We are in the present and Doctor X is in his bed. He awakes alone.) Where did you go? How could you go? I was holding so tightly. You will pay! You will all pay! No one will have love unless I have love!!! You hear me?!! You hear me, world?! (Doctor X gets his doctor’s bag. He loads a syringe, tests it and exits into the night.)

p. 27-28: Lisa and Nina are on patrol. Nina confesses she let Doctor X get away the last time she and the other Crimefighters faced him. She fears their next meeting..  Starts with

Nina and Lisa scour the streets in full Crimefighter getup. Normal city noises.


There aren’t any accidents.

and ends with



p. 49-51: Doctor X has been captured and hospitalized. Nina, who is fascinated by him, guards his room. Of course, he manipulates her and makes his escape.   Starts with

Nina stands in the room of Doctor X. She stares at him. He does not seem to notice.


Right there. Could almost touch her. Face like a plate.

and ends with


Sorry. (Doctor X leaves. Nina sobs.)


Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Sundermann, E. (2012, Dec 05). Hearts like fists hits hard. [open access] The Village Voice, p.1.

Webster, A. (2012, Dec 06). Avengers with motives personal, professional and just because. New York Times, p.C5.

Pretty Theft – Adam Szymkowicz


Originally produced by the Flux Theatre Ensemble in New York City on April 24, 2009.

Original Cast:

Marco                                                                   Todd d’Amour
Waitress/Ballerina                                              Candice Holdorf
Psychiatrist/Ballerina                                         Lynn Kenny
Suzy                                                                      Maria Portman Kelly
Joe                                                                        Brian Pracht
Bobby                                                                   Zack Robidas
Allegra                                                                  Marnie Schulenburg
Allegra’s Mom/Supervisor/Ballerina                Cotton Wright

Director:  Angela Astle
  Ashley Martinez
Set Design
Heather Cohn
Lighting Design:  Andy Fritsch
Sound Design:  Kevin Fuller
Costume Design:  Becky Kelly
Stage Manager:  Kate August

Allegra:  18
Suzy:  18
Joe:  20s to 30s
Marco/Allegra’s Father:
  30s to 40s
Ballerina 2/Allegra’s Mother/Supervisor/Patient/Customer 2 & 4:
  30s to 50s
Ballerina 1/Psychiatrist/Patient/Waitress/Customer 1 & 3:  30s to 40s
Bobby/Intern/Joe’s Father:  20s

Publication:  Syzmkowicz, Adam. Pretty Theft. Samuel French, 2009. Drama Library PS3619.Z965 P74 2009.

Setting:  Multiple:  a group home, a diner, a hotel room, a mental asylum, a living room; the present

Language:  Contemporary


No, it’s not that. It’s just… We’re young. I want to fuck other girls. I want to be free to do that at school. There’s lots of different kinds of girls out there and most of them I’ve never even kissed. I’m sorry. Now you’re mad at me.

Genre/Style:  Serio-Comedic

Plot:   18-year-old Allegra takes a summer job at a group home and falls under the wing of Suzy, a likeable bad girl.  When Allegra’s unlikely friendship with Joe, an autistic group home resident, goes awry—sabotaged by Suzy—she and Suzy steal Suzy’s mom’s car and take off for parts unknown.  On the run, they fall afoul of Marco, a self-described art thief and admirer of young girls.  An exploration of theft in its many permutations, Pretty Theft works best when it focuses on the two girls’ love/hate relationship and on the fragile friendship between Allegra and Joe, an innocent soul who’s a casualty of Suzy’s careless machinations.



Representative Monologues:  Mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.  There are a number of monologues for both men and women in the play.

p.29:  The Supervisor of the Group Home explains how she deals with Joe’s theft of little items from the other residents and the importance of his treasure box. 


(as she takes objects out of Joe’s box)  We no longer wonder where the pens go, the pads, the rubber bands, the paper clips and Mrs. Thompson’s dentures. All of us know they’re in Joe’s box. When he first came here, we tried to get him to give back his pilfered items. But that was a disaster.

[Lines cut]

The only thing I leave in the box, is his ballerina doll. A gift from the former supervisor, now deceased. He likes it. I’ve always felt there’s no harm in it. I’ve always felt there’s no harm in him. His mother disagrees.

p.32:  Allegra visits her unconscious and dying father in the hospital and angrily confronts him over his dying. 


And I’m working at this like group home with Suzy Harris. We hang out a lot. You know who she is? I think you’d like her. She’s a lot of fun. She was supposed to come here with me today but… she couldn’t make it.

[Lines cut]

I miss you.

I’ve always missed you. I’m sorry. I don’t want you to die. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Oh, Christ, I’m so sorry. Please don’t die. You’re so small. Please, Daddy.

p.69: Joe, in a straitjacket, explains the difference between people like him who are damaged and people who are untouchable, perfect. 


Some people get locked up and some people never do. If you try to kiss the staff they will lock you up. It is illegal. Many men in suits never go to jail. That’s because that’s because that’s   because they aren’t me. They aren’t broken. [Lines cut] Like doctors who can fix you. Except they don’t need fixing. Not the super untouchable. They have legs like razors and eyes that magnetize. They are pretty. They are everything. Like Allegra. I wonder if Allegra is super untouchable.




Representative Scenes:  Of the two-people scenes in the play, a number of them are fairly brief and unsuitable for substantial scene work.  Some of these short scenes could be combined to create a longer scene with a more appropriate narrative arc.   

p. 30-31 and 33-34:  Scenes Ten and Twelve can be combined to form one scene. Suzy goes to the movies with Bobby, Allegra’s boyfriend, and attempts to seduce him.  Starts with


                This sucks

and ends with


(Following him out) Wait for me. I still need a ride. Hey, mush-mouth. Wait for me.




Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Gates, A. (2009, Apr 28). Being nice can also take you too far. New York Times,pp.C4.

Harcum, C. (2009, Apr 28). Pretty theft. [open access] nythatre.com.

Peikert, M. (2009, Apr 28). Pretty theft. [open access] backstage.

Snyder, S. (2009). Stealing hearts and minds:  Emotional theft neither pretty, nor petty. [open access] The Villager 78(47).

Sobel, J. (2009, Apr 26). Pretty theft by Adam Szymkowicz. [open access] Blog Critics.