"The Hasty Heart," John Patrick's 1945 play about wounded and sick soldiers in a convalescent ward, is corny at points, maudlin elsewhere, and dutifully preachy in between. But it's also finely crafted, and the Olney Theater's production does well by the craft while making the mushy moments nearly irresistible.
There can be few dry eyes over the plight of Lachlen McLaughlin, the prickly young Scot with one foot in the grave. Lachlen doesn't know about this dire prognosis, but his fellow patients do, and the play follows his changes from curmudgeon to softy as his ward-mates draw him out. In the meantime, Lachlen and the pretty nurse fall in love.
With mosquito netting and silhouetted palms, director/set designer James D. Waring has done a good job evoking a temporary British hospital somewhere in Southeast Asia, where all the action happens. The acting, by a cast trained at Catholic University, seldom flags, though Debra Macut as the nurse seems less than comfortable -- and who wouldn't be? -- getting off lines like "For a little while, you've learned the meaning of friendship" and "Surely there's pity in every woman's love."
Eric Pierpoint as Yank -- the lone American in a ward boasting a Brit, an Aussie, a New Zealander and a native tribesman -- gives an appealing, careful performance that helps the show work. To his commanding stage presence, he adds a stutter and a drawl -- which even Ronald Reagan, who played the role in the movie, wasn't willing to hazard.
Charley Lang as the hapless Lachlen acquits himself well in a challenging part, alternately brooding and gushing good cheer; the rest of the cast is also solid; even John Lescault as the orderly plays his few harried walk-ons for all they're worth.
THE HASTY HEART -- At the Olney Theater through July 18.