We’ve all experienced a strange mix of tragedy, comedy and drama in equal parts throughout our lives. We stumble and fall, but we get back up. We learn and we cry. And sometimes, all we can do is laugh. These are the universal themes that “Crimes of the Heart” at the Plaza Theatre captures so beautifully.
If you’ve never seen this classic American play (or the famed 1986 film adaptation), the story appears deceivingly simple: three sisters reunite at their grandfather’s home and hash out their differences. But it’s so much more than that. You have undoubtedly met one (if not all) of the template characters that these sisters embody at some point in your life. Lenny is the often overlooked and put-upon sister who does her best to hold everything together, while never having enough courage to pursue her own desires. Meg is the temperamental sibling who tends to primarily focus on herself and what makes her happy, often at the expense of those around her. And Babe is the charming, bubbly sister who hides her own deep-seated pain with a mask of carefree joy. As often happens when siblings are reunited, old feelings rise to the surface. Resentment that has lain dormant is reawakened. Grievances are revealed and angry confrontations follow.
What makes this Plaza presentation such essential viewing is the quality of the performances. Although the cast itself is small (limited to six roles), each actor performs in such a manner that they prove themselves indispensable to the production. Sarah Sims takes on the role of Lenny and provides the character with a quiet tragedy and subtle nuance. Jenna Crowell as Meg shows a seemingly superficial woman to have a conflicted and struggling soul. Camille Mund’s Babe exudes vivacious energy and heartbreaking desperation all at once. Sara Berrett as Chick, the sisters’ nosy cousin, brings the laughs with passive-aggressive comments and is charmingly pompous. Matthew Graff and Jackson Gray round out the cast as the two and only male characters. Graff portrays Doc Porter, an old flame of Meg’s, and Gray portrays Barnette Loyd, Babe’s lawyer. Although both roles could be played without nuance, these men instead give their characters humanity and complexity in the brief time they appear onstage.
The direction by Jami Hughes (with assistant director Mark Szafarz) is also top-notch. The characters are all given space to breathe and react. Their interactions are excellent, and some of the most intense moments of the entire play are when no dialog is being spoken at all. Special note must be given to the set design, which is wonderfully realized. The entirety of the play takes place in the living room/ kitchen of a mid-century Southern home and it is rendered beautifully onstage. Period accurate appliances and furniture all lend to the credibility and overall immersive nature of the production. The costumes as well speak volumes of each character and what part of themselves they are willing to portray to the world.
Every character carries with them an emotional scar, but the difference is in how they choose to hide that pain from those around them. The relationship between the sisters is difficult and complex, much as it is for real-life siblings. Although each sister possesses and inherent sadness, there is also within them an equally inherent desire to be better than what they are. It’s only through admitting their flaws together and embracing their imperfect nature that they can grow and achieve real happiness.
Like life, this place is full of tragedy and comedy and is truly one of the best experiences we’ve had at the Plaza. Highly recommended. The play is being performed April 16-25 and limited seating is available, so get your tickets now!
ABOUT BECKY AND KEVIN: Kevin and Becky Blalock are a couple from Houston, Texas who love all things film & theater. They met in an art class in 2006 at Sam Houston State University where they formed a close friendship that eventually grew into marriage. Today they enjoy spending hours discussing movies together, and they own/operate a small graphic design business in west Houston where they continue to pursue their love of art and creativity daily through the work they do for clients. They have two cats and a turtle who all seem ambivalent to their love of art.