Theater Review: 'Crimes of the Heart'

By: 
Ben Miles
Jennifer Cannon, Alexandra Wright and Megan Gainey in "Crimes of the Heart."

“Crimes of the Heart,” by American dramatist Beth Henley, won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 1986, Henley’s conceit was transformed into a novel and a film. Now, nearly four decades after it’s creation, “Crimes” has returned to its original artistic form in a worthy staging at Long Beach’s International City Theatre.

Framed as a tragicomedy, “Crimes” is focused on a trio of sisters – Lenny (a sad sack portrait drawn by Jennifer Cannon), Meg (a fiery performance by Robin Long) and Babe (Megan Gainey putting ample cuteness into my her cheeky characterization) – who, after Babe has been released from jail on bail for severely wounding her husband with a gunshot, gather at the hospitalized and ailing Old Grandaddy’s Hazlehurst, Mississippi home.

The siblings were reared in a creepily dysfunctional family and each sister has a penchant for unseemly personal predicaments. All have survived grave unhappiness and much misfortune.

But past grudges continue to rise in the form of present day resentments as these Magrath sisters cope with their intrusive busybody cousin, Chick (a scene-stealing Alexandra Wright) and other assorted characters, including a two-timing doctor named Porter (an amiable James Louis Wagner) and an eager but naive attorney called Barnett Lloyd (play with a credible callowness by Wallace Angus Bruce).

Directed by Luke Yankee with more focus on the comedy than the tragedy, this “Crimes” is nonetheless believable as a sordid slice of southern life. With a true-to-life scenic design by Pete Hickok, which depicts a down home kitchen sitting; fetchingly appropriate costuming by Kim DeShazo; ample lighting effects by Stacy McKenney; and crisp sound engineering by Dave Mickey, it would be a crime for avid theatergoers to miss ICT’s “Crimes of the Heart.”

“Crimes of the Heart” continues at Long Beach’s International City Theatre through June 25. The show is being staged at the Beverly O’Neill Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd. Evening performances on Friday and Saturday are at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees is at 2 p.m. For reservations, call (562) 436-4610. For online ticketing, visit www.internationalcitytheatre.org.

ben@beachcomber.news

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