Friday, April 13, 2018

WOBT: "Crimes of the Heart"

Beth Henley's multi-award winning Crimes of the Heart is a perennial favorite, having had numerous showings across the River Region since its 1979 debut at the Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Currently playing at Prattville's "Way Of Broadway Theatre" under Brady Walker's gentle direction, Henley's Southern tragicomedy offers a glimpse into the lives of the Magrath sisters of Hazlehurst, Mississippi on eldest sibling Lenny's [Haeley DePace] 30th Birthday, when boozy middle sister Meg [Ashlee Lassiter] returns from Hollywood at Lenny's request to help out with youngest sister Babe's [Glory Bush] arrest for shooting her high-powered lawyer husband Zachary because she "didn't like his looks".

It seems that almost everyone is having a bad day: the sisters' Old Granddaddy is hospitalized after a stroke, Lenny's horse just died, the sisters are haunted by their mother's suicide years ago, Babe is closed-mouthed about shooting her husband because she is "protecting someone", social-climbing cousin Chick Boyle [Lolly White] is more humiliated than concerned about Babe's indiscretion, Meg's singing career has dried up and she tries to rekindle a one-time relationship with now happily married Doc Porter [Josh Reese]...and Lenny's only birthday present is an out-of-date box of chocolates from Chick.

Into Babe's defense steps eager neophyte lawyer Barnette Lloyd [Sam Elsky]. Smitten with Babe, Barnette also has a "personal vendetta" to settle against Zachary. But when Babe's secret is made known, and incriminating pictures could ruin any case she might have, decisions have to be made.

Mr. Walker keeps his actors moving at a steady pace, giving each character his or her moments to shine. They work as a tight ensemble, and while their interpretations are clear, they should develop greater variety and subtleties as the run of the play continues.

The set by Mike Proper and Brady Walker -- a kitchen in the sisters' grandfather's home -- is rendered with attention to detail, making it a livable and familiar place for the characters to inhabit, and adds to the overall naturalism in this quirky comedy.

We get caught up in the bizarre happenings in Hazlehurst, laughing and crying at the mishaps, confusions, sibling rivalries, romances, and legal twists and turns; but what holds Crimes of the Heart together is the bond of family that can assuage almost any hardship.