With dazzling stagecraft, Theatre for a New Audience brilliantly takes on The Broken Heart, one of post-Renaissance shocker John Ford’s best tragedies. Three pairs of lovers start out in ancient Sparta with high hopes. Two sweethearts achieve happy wedded union, but the other two couples are in for an evening in hell of intense emotional torment. The audience sits enthralled as pride, greed, lust, jealousy, revenge, grief, psychotic frenzy, murder and death parade before our eager eyes. Attention does not waver. The stage effects are scrumptious: stabbed chests and slitted veins bleed gore that flows black and glossy wet. Men wallow, groan and grovel in amorous despair. There’s a deliciously raw, all too convincing mad scene by Penthea, a pent-up blond beauty wrenched from the arms of her lover Orgilus and forcibly wedded to a tyrannical geezer. Evidently inspired by the mad performance of Hamlet’s Ophelia, but much more violent, Penthea dances naked in her nightgown on a festive banquet table where dinner looks like the furred corpses of squirrels and muskrats. Or maybe the mounded viands are just growing gray mold laced with old blood. A crafty silver chair delivers howling death to the unwary man who sits trapped in it. The sobbing young queen Calantha of Sparta slips a marriage ring on the finger of her frozen fiançé, still sitting dead, but in a different throne-like chair when we next see him. She launches into a spastic dance and tells her heart, “Crack!” It does, fulfilling the drama’s title, and more black stains appear on her gown. Eerie music, black-robed monkish figures, lighting that ranges from tomb-like to police-interrogation caliber heighten the drama. People talk of “monster love,” and say things like, “I ‘ll tear thy throat out, son of a cat.” Don’t miss this bizarre vintage evening, stranger than anything you can imagine. Treat your darker emotions to the tasty nerve-wracking workout they secretly crave. John Ford, some twenty years younger than Shakespeare belongs to the newer generation of English playwrights whose dramas are marked by smothering, harrowing agony. Given Ford’s success, you know his closeted audiences must have gloated over so much artful human wreckage. Currently it’s at the Duke on 42nd Street through March 4. (www.tfana.org). The other must-see John Ford drama will be shown at BAM in Brooklyn, March 20-31. BAM.org. It’s the even more renowned ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.