A Midwestern Gothic

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

“The loons are strange this summer.” The characters in Strange Heart Beating spend their summers fishing, birding, and swimming in the lake. They live in a rural town that’s as bucolic as it is repressive. When they encounter something new, or something uncomfortable, they express that discomfort in muted terms: “That’s interesting.” Or: “That’s different.”

Playwright Kristin Idaszak and director Addie Gorlin at the Strange Heart Beating workshop in November 2018

Director Addie Gorlin, a recipient of the 2019 National Directors Fellowship, recognized the town in Strange Heart Beating immediately. It reminded her of her Minnesotan upbringing. Cloudgate Theatre brings Gorlin back to her Midwestern roots after three years in Providence at Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company’s prestigious MFA directing program, and fresh off associate directing We Live in Cairo, a world premiere new musical at American Repertory Theatre.


Gorlin says, “Strange Heart Beating asks us to face the reality that yes, horrific things have and continue to happen in small towns that get buried or swept under the rug. It asks us to take off the blinders of denial, to ditch the facade of Minnesota nice, and to face the truth. What ultimately drew me to this play though are the elegant layers of self-criticism within the writing, how the story presents a parable-like, meta understanding of itself.”


The play draws loose inspiration from the Jacob Wetterling case, the story of a young boy who was kidnapped and murdered in Central Minnesota, a mystery that went unsolved for almost 30 years while the killer lived in the town. Strange Heart Beating is a Midwestern Gothic that grapples with the willful ignorance of a seemingly vigilant community. The strangeness of the loons is only the tip of the iceberg, or rather, the surface of a deep and murky lake. Gorlin’s skillful directing brings these uncomfortable truths to the surface.

Cloudgate Theatre

Chicago, IL, USA

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