Shoestring Theatre in Lake Helen is ringing in the new year with an excellent ensemble cast for playwright Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart. Set in 1974, in the small town of Hazlehurst, Mississippi, Henley gives each sister a different mountain of trouble as a result of their shared childhood trauma.
Individually, the sisters tackle their demons with downward spirals of despair, until one very bad day brings them back to Old Granddaddy’s home and the chance to rise up together in support of the youngest.
Babe (played by Skyla Sollowen) has shot her husband in the stomach because she “doesn’t like the way he looks.” The oldest sister, Lenny (Kirsten Kiwior Taylor), serves as the glue that brings the family together in times of need, including calling upon rebellious middle sister Meg (Brittany Baumgardner), and running interference with cousin Chick (Lizzy Parsons), next door.
Rounding out the cast is the passionate young lawyer, Barnette Lloyd (John Pfluger), who is trying to keep Babe free, and the hometown love Meg left behind, Doc Porter (Johnny Machado).
During its original Broadway run from October 1981 through February 1983, the play garnered numerous nominations and awards, including the New York Drama Critics Award for Best American Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as four Tony Award nominations.
The Broadway success was followed by a film version in 1986, starring Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek as the three wayward sisters.
Charles Isherwood of The New York Times selected the 2008 revival directed by Kathleen Turner as his Critics Pick. He said the play has proved to be a durable showcase for actresses in the two decades and more since it won the Pulitzer Prize.
While the setting is dated nearly 50 years ago, the script includes characters who are working through societal issues that still impact us today, such as racism, mental illness, domestic abuse and suicide.
“Crimes of the Heart is first and foremost, a dark comedy. Laughter mixed with tears, apparent defeats followed by small victories, tragedy overcome by trust. It is the tale of a fractured family made whole through love, at least for today. Playwright Beth Henley manages to create a tight little world of dysfunction that still has the audience laughing at the absurdity of it all. Hard truths, suicide, sickness, betrayal, are overcome by the very human strengths of humor, hope and love,” veteran Shoestring director Sally Daykin said.
Daykin jumped at the chance to direct this piece, because she had the opportunity to play Babe in a production years ago, and knows firsthand the powerful quirky appeal it can have for the audience and cast alike.
“The characters created for the stage are so vibrantly real; they make the actors’ job pure delight. They are full of angst and anger, funny and sad, depressed but hopeful. And they are always wishing for that magic moment that will make everything all right. The people in this play are so genuine, so relatable — and I am lucky because I have the perfect cast and crew to make it all happen!” said Daykin.
Crimes of the Heart opened Thursday, Feb. 2, and runs through Sunday, Feb. 12. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets cost $20 for adults, $17 for senior citizens, and $12 for students. Student tickets are only sold at the box office.
Purchase tickets by calling the box office at 386-228-3777 or online at shoestringtheatre.net.