Stacy Keach as Ernest Hemingway in “Pamplona,” the one-man show by Jim McGrath that was canceled after the actor suffered a “mild” heart attack while performing on opening night at the Goodman Theatre on May 30. (Photo: Liz Lauren)

Stacy Keach and the insidious ways of heart attacks

SHARE Stacy Keach and the insidious ways of heart attacks
SHARE Stacy Keach and the insidious ways of heart attacks

Stacy Keach sure showed his dedication to his craft last week. After suffering a heart attack right on stage, the fine veteran actor’s first thought was, “When are we rescheduling?”

Keach’s dramatic public health scare, we can only hope, will increase public awareness about the many ways of heart attacks. They do not always hit hard and fast. They can be deadly sneaky.


The biggest takeaway here is that heart attacks are not as infrequent as people often think. Warning signs stretch beyond the most obvious – chest and arm pain – and run through a list including exhaustion, indigestion, increased heart rate, breathlessness, flu-like symptoms, sexual dysfunction and various upper body pains.

Keach, the star of Jim McGrath’s “Pamplona,” a one-man show about Ernest Hemingway, appeared confused on stage at the Goodman Theatre on opening night, May 30. He often repeated lines. But given that the play explores Hemingway’s writer’s block, the repetition seemed almost intentional. It was not revealed until days later that the actor suffered a heart attack.

Director Robert Falls stepped in, explained to the audience that Keach was feeling ill, and called the curtain down. The show may be rescheduled for next year.

On Thursday, Keach told Sun-Times theater critic Hedy Weiss, “I didn’t feel any pain, just a feeling of being in a fog.”

Exactly so, and good to know. Heart attacks come in many ways.

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