Crimes of the Heart is an “Exhilarating”, “Empowering” Piece of Theatre
A beloved childhood horse is struck by lighting, granddaddy is in a coma and a husband has been shot by his own wife: it’s a bad day for the MacGrath sisters.
Crimes of the Heart, Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, pulses with humour and heartbreak. Sterling Theatre Company’s production, currently playing at The Theatre Machine, hits every note, knocks most right out of the park, and is teeming with life.
Set in the Deep South, the play simmers with Southern Gothic heat: the drawling voices, the eccentricity, the infidelities… This a world where social graces are held in high esteem, but always abandoned—spectacularly!—when emotions flare.
The youngest sister, Babe, has just shot her husband, but he was asking for it. It causes a something of a scandal, made worse by his high social standing as a successful lawyer and pillar of the community. Meg, the middle sister, has just come home from California where her singing career never really took flight. And then there is Lenny, the eldest sister, trying desperately hard to be the rock of the family, but lacking the confidence to be the master of her own fate.
Under the sturdy direction of Miriam Laurence, the production is a feat of rock-solid world-building. No single element draws attention to itself and nothing detracts from the reality of the moment.
Sophie Ann Rooney, Ryan Tonkin and Kyle Labine have crafted a period kitchen that feels lived in. Family history oozes from the textures. Those garish lime green cupboards seem deeply haunted when we hear mention of the green gardening gloves their mother—who committed suicide—used to wear.
From start to finish, the performances seem effortless, like life occurring there before you. Sheri Godda’s Lenny is both goofy and tragic as she struggles to control the messes—physical and emotional—that plaque her family. Natalie Krill conveys Babe’s willfulness and determination hidden beneath her fragile demeanor. Her little girl persona seems almost obstinate, as if she’s consciously trying to mask or tame her own lifeforce. Danka Scenpanovic’s Meg, a tidal wave of charisma, comes crashing through the door, wreaking havoc. She’s a force to be reckoned with as she attempts to recklessly bottle up her guilt, sadness and disappointment.
The rest of the town is represented by three characters that pop in and out of the MacGrath sisters’ lives. Erin Boyes’ manages to make the judgemental Chick endearing in a shrill, obnoxious sort of way. When Oliver Pigott limps onto the scene as Meg’s jilted ex-lover, Doc, the tension is almost unbearable between them and their shared history is palpable. With relatively little stage time, his hunched-over, turned-away body language reveals an anguished blend of affection and heartache. And last, but not least, Michael Eisner’s Barnette, the young lawyer infatuated with Babe, is a charming presence—passionate, doe-eyed, a tad awkward and…totally adorable.
I felt I knew these people the second they come through that rickety screen door and took shelter in my heart. I laughed with them, I cried with them and I was exhilarated when each of them, finally, reaches out to grab the thing that will sustain them.
At first crippled by resentment, guilt and a bad reputation, all three sisters find the courage to own their past and define their present. While their lives seem messy and plagued with disappointment, their story is ultimately a celebration of life.
Do not miss the opportunity to experience this funny, touching and empowering piece of theatre!
- Crimes of the Heart plays until May 2 at The Theatre Machine (376 Dufferin St.)
- Shows run Tuesday through Saturday at 8PM
- Regular Tickets are $20 ($15 for Artists/Seniors/Students on Tuesdays)
- Tickets can be purchased online
Photo of Sheri Godda, Natalie Krill and Danka Scepanovic by Meredith Henry