Judging by the number of playwrights writing naked mole rats into their story lines, you’d think they were the world’s new golden retriever. But unlike the winsome blonde dog, the mole rat’s principal virtues are a high pain tolerance and a low metabolism. These characteristics are shared by mole-rat maven Marcy (Erin Stewart), the 16-year-old, motormouthed misfit of Kelleen Conway Blanchard’s 90-minute SNL-style shockfest. Ever since Marcy’s dad’s corpse turned up under the floorboards (“No wonder Sparky’s always licking the stove”), she’s been haunted by his Old Hamlet-like ghost, who urges her to solve his murder and seek revenge.
Impeding the investigation—and Marcy’s enjoyment of life in general—are her popular sister Wendy (a ghoulish Erin Pike, marvelously arrayed by costume designer Jennifer Hurlbert with globular breasts projecting from her clavicles) and their depraved alcoholic mother (Karen Heaven), who sprawls like a languid, magenta-clad insect at the center of David Gignac’s uncomfortable set (the family sofa is a church pew).
Stewart’s savant-quick line delivery may recall a more manic version of the heroine of Juno, but she’s not meant to be as likable. Local writer Blanchard and director Bret Fetzer, who previously collaborated on Small Town at Annex in ’07, are mainly intent on choreographing over-the-top laughs. These include a hilarious slo-mo girlfight in which—to a soundtrack of tribal shrieks—Marcy dislocates Wendy’s eye with a cupcake. The cause of the fight is a football jock (Joey Gilmore) who totes a pink guitar and croons lyrics like “A pilgrim is a person with a dirty, dirty mind.”
In case you haven’t guessed by now, Hearts Are Monsters sits squarely in the chilly, shallow little heart of camp. The weirdness proliferates so broadly and amusingly that in the end you may not be bothered by the incomprehensible finale. Indignity piles on indignity, insult upon insult, but without enough breathing space to imagine a life that’s better than Marcy’s—or that of her royal incestuous lesbian ancestors, who were eaten by dogs. Or by naked mole rats. Or something like that.