Crimes of the Heart loaded with wry humor at TheatreWorks

L-R: Meg (Sarah Moser), gets a reaction from her sisters Lenny (Therese Plaehn) and Babe  (Lizzie O'Hara) in Crimes of the Heart, presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Jan. 11 - Feb. 4, 2017 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.  Photo credit: Kevin Berne

L-R: Meg (Sarah Moser), gets a reaction from her sisters Lenny (Therese Plaehn) and Babe
(Lizzie O’Hara) in Crimes of the Heart, presented
by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Jan. 11 – Feb. 4, 2017 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Photo credit: Kevin Berne

Crimes of the Heart: Comedy by Beth Henley. Directed by Giovanna Sardelli. TheatreWorks at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View.  (650) 463-1960 or visit www.theatreworks.org.  January 11—February 5, 2017

Crimes of the Heart loaded with wry humor at TheatreWorks. Rating: ★★★★☆

Consider the reunion of three sisters in a dysfunctional Southern family whose mother had garnered national headlines for hanging herself and the family cat, whose father had long ago split and the youngest sister is awaiting trial for shooting her husband in the stomach.  Add to that a granddaddy that is in a hospital dying, a beloved horse, Billy Boy, has been killed by lightning and the screwed up personalities of the sisters would fill pages of a psychiatrist’s files.  To quote Frank Rich’s 1981 Broadway opening night review, “A comedy, you ask?”

It is a rhetorical question that becomes mute in TheatreWork’s smashing production. The casts’ distinctive performances give added emphasis to the concept of ensemble work. But first and foremost it is director Giovanna Sardelli’s inventive staging that makes the evening a success muting the questionable humor extracted from dark gothic situations avoiding parody.

Beth Henley’s play won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize and since has had success in regional theaters before being made into a movie with an all-star cast. Henley is a Southerner and she creates dialog that reflects her characters. The major characters are three Magrath sisters who gather at the old homestead in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. The time is the fall of 1974, five years after Hurricane Camille and the place is the kitchen and surroundings of the family house. Andrea Bechert has created a splendid set that encompasses exterior and interior rooms that brim with authentic detail.

It is the 30th birthday of the eldest sister Lenny (Therese Plaehn) who is the homebody taking care of the hospitalized granddaddy. She is unlucky in love and has stopped seeing a man whom she met at one of the lonely heart clubs. Her reason for doing so is revealed late in the play. The youngest sister Babe (Lizzie O’Hara) has shot her abusive husband because she says, “I didn’t like his looks” and calmly made some lemonade before calling the doctor. She is out on bail. Middle sister Meg is a talented singer who went off to Hollywood, ended up in a psyche ward and has returned by bus to stand by Babe during her trial.

The males in cast include Doc (Timothy Redmond ) now married with two children and a former lover of Meg and Barnette Lloyd (Joshua Marx) a young lawyer with a crush on Babe who is going to defend her. The final member of the cast is cousin Chick Boyle (Laura Jane Bailey) who is a meddling “take charge” type who is given some delicious stage actions that brings down the house.

As the plot thickens and individuals react to each cleverly revealed vignette leading to an ending that erases some of the questionable reliance on the frailties of each of the sisters to garner laughs.  The running time is two hours and 35 minutes including only one intermission that is a wise move since the play was originally three acts. Recommended with  minor reservations.

CAST: Laura Jane Bailey (Chick Boyle); Sarah Moser (Meg Magrath) ; Lizzie O’Hara (Babe Botrelle); Joshua Marx (Barnette Lloyd); Therese Plaehn (Lenny Magrath); Timothy Redmond (Doc Porter).

ARTISTIC STAFF: Scenic Designer, Andrea Bechert; Costume Designer, Cathleen Edwards; Lighting Designer, Steven B. Mannshardt; Sound Designer, Jeff Mockus; Dialect Coach, Kimily Conkle; Casting Director, Leslie Martinson; Stage Manager, Ashley Taylor Frampton; Assistant Stage Manager, Emily Anderson Wolf.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.

L-R: Meg (Sarah Moser), gets a reaction from her sisters Lenny (Therese Plaehn) and Babe
(Lizzie O’Hara) in Crimes of the Heart, presented
by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Jan. 11 – Feb. 4, 2017 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

Photo credit: Kevin Berne