Review: CRIMES OF THE HEART at the Good Theater

This compelling production directed by Brian P. Allen runs through January 29.

By: Jan. 14, 2023
Review: CRIMES OF THE HEART at the Good Theater
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CRIMES OF THE HEART, Beth Henley's Pulitzer-Prize winning 1981 dark comedy about three sisters and their shared secrets, receives a compelling production, directed by Brian P. Allen, at Portland's Good Theater. Set in the Mississippi in the mid-twentieth century, Henley's character-driven play has Chekovian overtones, as the relatively plotless piece relies on a series of revelations about the past to shape the mordent tragi-comedy.

The six-person work, peopled with eccentric characters who engage in a roller coaster of emotions, is exactly the sort of play at which director Brian P. Allen excels. Using the confines of the single setting and the explosive mixture of laughter, tension, and impending tragedy, he elicits from the actors a perfectly calibrated performance. Timing is brisk; emotions turn on a dime, and there is ample compassion for the very damaged, yet touchingly vulnerable characters.

Staging the piece on Steve's Underwood's appropriately banal-looking unit set (Prop Master Sophie Urey, Lighting Designer Iain Odlin), with its plebian green color scheme and shabby utilitarian interior, immediately establishes the small-town feel. Costume Designer Michelle Handley adds to the ambiance with simple vintage attire that visually establishes character instantly. Craig Robinson as Technical Director and Michael Lynch as Stage Manager round out the expert team.

Review: CRIMES OF THE HEART at the Good Theater The cast proves to be a fine-tuned ensemble, all managing the Southern dialect with fluid skill. Kat Moraros makes the oldest sister, Lenny, a study in sadly missed opportunities, timid, repressed, and yet brimming with unfulfilled hopes, dreams, and desires. Casey Turner offers a vivid contrast as Meg Magrath, the wayward sibling, capturing her failed dreams of a singing career and her open rebellion against small town life. Turner does a fine job of showcasing the two sides of her character - alternating with rapid dexterity between the street-wise, free-living rebel and the sweet-talking southern girl. Heather Irish gives an impressive performance as Babe Botrelle, whose crime of passion, stands at the heart of the narrative. She is birdlike and vulnerable, battered, yearning, half-mad with grief and truth. Her performance makes the perfect fulcrum for the three sisters as she vacillates between dire deeds and almost child-like hope that somehow there is a way through it all.

As the Magrath Sisters' pretentious cousin, Chick Boyle, Molly Franzen creates a sharply etched portrait of the duplicitousness of the ideal of Southern femininity. Beneath the surface of lady-like propriety, she is all vicious gossip, envy, and discontent. Dalton Kimball makes the most of his two scenes as Doc Porter, the man who has a history with the sisters and whose laid-back acceptance of his own fate proves liberating. Thomas Ian Campbell does a fine job portraying the painfully shy attorney Barnette Lloyd, whose seething desire for revenge buried deep within creates his own private hell.

CRIMES OF THE HEART, despite its vintage, remains a remarkably fresh theatrical work, and the Good Theater production will rivet you with both smiles and sweet sadness.

Photos courtesy of Good Theater, Steve Underwood, photographer

CRIMES OF THE HEART runs from January 11 - January 29, 2023, at the Good theater, 76 Congress Street, Portland, ME 207-835-0895