The Sandy Spring Theatre Group brings their production of Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart to the Arts Barn in Gaithersburg. Director David Fialkoff has assembled a stellar cast for this dark comedy. The stage is set simply and the costumes take you down south for the story.
No set designer is listed in the program, so kudos to Sue Fialkoff and Janet Wallace who were in charge of props. The set is simple – a kitchen with a counter sink area, a refrigerator, a kitchen table, a cot (or small bed), and a telephone. Combined with the costumes designed by Pat Kaufman – the audience is transported to Hazlehurst, Mississippi.
The story centers on the Magrath sisters.There is Babe Botrelle (a manic and adorable Elizabethann English) who shoots her husband but only bad enough to send him to the hospital. There is Meg Magrath (played by energetic fire cracker Carrie McCabe-Silver), who has a not-so-good singing career and history with a few men. Then there is the subtle and realistic portrayal of Lenny Magrath (Jill Goodrich), around whom the story centers around. She lives in her dad’s house, taking care of the farm after losing her mother and cat in a plot point that trickles into each sister’s life. and he is in the hospital after suffering a stroke. The sisters each have their own issues and strive to have a moment where they can get along and be together.
They don’t call call this a ‘black comedy’ for nothing. There’s a lot of seedy offstage action driving the onstage relationships: a shooting of a husband, an overly-critical father who has had a stroke, a secret extramarital affair that comes out about Babe, and a rendezvous between a married man and one of the sisters. The three lead actresses are superb and are able to switch emotions – from dramatic lows to hysterical laughter – in seconds, making the references and stories about the off stage action seem as if it’s happening right in front of the viewer.
A limping small town man returned to his roots, named Doc Porter (a convincing Patrick Pase) is wonderful and I enjoyed the scene between him and Meg when he convinces her to go on a bourbon drinking, moonlight ride. Henley leaves the audience wondering if they rekindled old flames, or if nothing really happened like Meg claims?
Barnette Lloyd (a suave and smooth Alex Badalov) is Babe’s lawyer who fancies his client while also uncovering her secrets. Dressed in an a meant-to-impress blue suit, Lloyd has a personal vendetta against Babe’s husband which further brings Babe hope in her time of trouble.
Chick Boyle (played with humor mixed with arrogance and nastiness by Anne VanDercook) is not liked by the sisters. However, she adds much humor to the play. Her cutting remarks about the family and compliments that could hurt anyone’s feelings leave the audience wanting to see her get what’s coming to her – which she does when Lenny chases her out of the house with a broom.
Sandy Spring Theatre Group’s Crimes of the Heart provides an entertaining evening of great acting and humor. It’s worth the trip to visit these sisters.
Crimes of the Heart plays through November 18, 2012 at the Arts Barn – 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets, call (301) 258-6394 or visit their website.
Read Amanda Gunther’s review of Crimes of the Heart at Dignity Players.