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Photography by Aaron Sutten

This begins with a marginally protracted (and personal) mode of articulation, but if I might indulge...

As a single man in my early thirties, while I do date occasionally and would not altogether abandon the eventual blessing of a sturdy marriage with the possibility of children, I've found the bachelor's life to be preferential in my current phase, especially when it's balanced in tandem to my numerous vocational responsibilities.

Still, I've participated in relations here and there, and a common activity seems to pop up with such pairings: the mutual, in-person viewership of, say, a piece of performance art or even that of a collection of various movies. Given these recreational times, while one partner may willingly select the film to view, said film may not completely resonate with the developed sensibilities of the other partner. This emotional detachment, of sorts, is certainly not out of any degrading or abject contempt for the film; far from it. It's more like how it's just not their type of film - you know what I mean?

Lord knows I've subjected my then-girlfriends to my guilty pleasures such as Die Hard With A Vengeance or Con Air (no judging), while on the opposite end of the spectrum, these timely ladies, more often than not, sat me down to watch their self-described "chick flicks" with them. Now, while I more than reasonably enjoyed such features as How To Make An American Quilt or The First Wives' Club or Because I Said So, there was still this underlying emotional detachment that stayed with me. It's not a bad thing; it's a perfectly natural response to an outsider's perspective into a woman's world that is full of conflict, intrigue, rapture and mystery that is all their own. And for the sake of healthy relationships, it's to any gentleman's developing credit to occasionally engage in his lady-friend's activities that are of a more feminine discipline (though many men sadly never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever seem to learn this).

Thus, it is with this musing where I find myself commenting on CRIMES OF THE HEART, the beautifully-realized and starkly believable production of Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize-winning play of sisterhood and female perseverance that is currently playing at Virginia Repertory Theatre's Hanover Tavern.

Set five years after the devastation of Hurricane Camille, CRIMES OF THE HEART takes place over the course of several hours in the kitchen and sitting room of the Magrath family home in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Played against the backdrop of Babe Botrelle (Lexi Langs) living somewhat "on the outs" of society after shooting her abusive husband, Babe's sisters Lenny (Maggie Roop) and Meg (Irene Kuykendall) become Babe's temporary caretakers in the unsettling but curiously optimistic interim. These three sisters are met by supportive figures such as their brawny and handsome neighbor Doc Porter (Arik Cullen) as well as Babe's young but shrewd lawyer Barnette Lloyd (Tyler Stevens). They're also met with patronizing and belittling contempt from the spuriously cosmopolitan airs of their first-cousin Chick Boyle (Maggie Bavolack). The play also has understudies at the helm - an advantageous professional courtesy all the same - assumed by actors Axle Burtness, Katy Feldhahn and Madison Hatfield.

With an impressively "lived in" and ever-so slightly dilapidated-looking set designed by Terrie Powers, director Steve Perigard's actors feel genuine on stage making us, the onlookers, sympathetic to the hardships of their everyday lives. This attitude especially connotes to "The Graces" quality that these three sisters may have indirectly but touchingly etched out under the lights (though as to which individual embodies Aglaea, Euphrosyne, or Thalia is up to virtually anyone's interpretation). This archetypical triad of women also bears some personal significance with me, at least in a nostalgic sense: my paternal grandmother, may she rest in peace, also had two sisters who would often came to her aid - one of whom just turned 100 years of age last March. But I digress...

CRIMES OF THE HEART is charming, sentimental, and moodily "southern" in its atmosphere and accents (with good work done by dialect coach Karen Kopryanski), but one more very quick nugget of attention must be paid to Kylie Clark for her props (yet again). Aside from an impressive collection of "knick-knackey" items strewn about the set, hearty kudos go to Ms. Clark for her use of LED lights in the matches and birthday candles. This was utilized because actual burning fire is not allowed at the Hanover Tavern given the building's age and historic significance. It's a good rule, and Ms. Clark has prepared the production accordingly.

And further props - sorry, I can't resist - go to Ms. Clark and crewmember Axle Burtness' food preparations. A lot of food is consumed on stage in this show, mostly by Ms. Kuykendall. And it has come to my attention that given Ms. Kuykendall's individual constitution and subjection to some varying forms of food allergies - this is not meant to be debasing in any way, I might add; I have food and seasonal allergies myself and I'm pretty much on the keto diet right now - special food recipes are prepared nightly with culinary expertise by Mr. Burtness. These items culminate into the unveiling of a large section of cake that is baked nightly for the benefit of Ms. Kuykendall's own captivating performance.

I mean - not to editorialize all that much - but God bless it! Wow! What an absolutely healthy and lovely expression of conscientiousness on the part of the staff and colleagues at Virginia Rep! To have created such a caring and proficient work environment for their actors to inhabit is a marvelous feature in a company, and they should be commended.

And in closing, this last little bit goes out to the guys with lady-friends - and bear in mind that I am not discounting the opinions of my LGBTQ friends and family with this closing statement - but guys, take it from me: take your girlfriends to see CRIMES OF THE HEART. Seriously! Because I think she'll really thank you for it.

CRIMES OF THE HEART plays at Virginia Repertory Theatre's Hanover Tavern until the 26th of August, 2018

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From This Author Brent Deekens