The Rep has rolled into 2021 with a hearty serving of homemade sibling strife and sentimentality, in its production of Crimes Of The Heart.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning play is set in Mississippi and centres around three sisters who are reunited when one of them is arrested for shooting her husband.
The action takes place in the home of the sisters’ grandparents, where they were raised after their mum committed suicide while they were young.
Their grandfather has been in deteriorating health and Lenny (Georgia Stockham) is the sister who lives with him as a carer.
As the story opens, Lenny has sent word to Meg (Cheryl Douglas) to return home to support Babe (Allison Scharber) after the latter sister shot her husband.
What unfolds is a tense couple days as the sisters spark, explode, and smoulder, like crackers and fireworks placed too close to each other on a backyard firecracker night.
As much as crimes of the heart, this story could also be dubbed affairs of the heart, as we glimpse inside each sister’s orbit (or orbits) of love.
Each of them is broken, each of them has a beautiful heart; this play is deftly crafted and has an air of Southern dignity amid the bad decisions and regrets.
It’s not often we get a play in which three, strong female characters hold court for almost the entire show. As a male reviewer, I felt very privileged to be able to witness the dynamics between these three women, with their unique pallet of colours and tempos and tactics.
On a set that was part detailed and part symbolic, director Geoff Brittain has conjured up a realistic sense of “home” with its tinges of loneliness and tinges of claustrophobia.
On opening night, cast members warmed into their roles, finding grace and confidence in act two after a tenative opening act of in which relationships and status were explored and teased out.
Stockham has a heavy load to carry in this play and she, along with Scharber really shone in the second act as the “really bad day” got more extreme.
Babe’s stage time with lawyer, Barnette Lloyd (Adam Schultz), had some poignant and even playful moments, while Meg’s “entrapment” of neighbour and former love, Doc Porter (Steve Marvenek) was an intriguing seesaw of status changes.
The uptight cousin, Chick (Deborah Proeve), was deliberately stiff and starchy on stage, as she strutted about while hovering just above the messiness of the sisters’ lives.
Crimes Of The Heart makes for an enjoyable night out, with a slow burn of deep southern entanglement.