Crimes of the Heart, Thirsty Theater, at the Pilsen Theatre. Some have the erroneous idea that popular plays are easy to stage. Beth Henley’s Pulitzer-winning portrait of three southern sisters struggling against the legacy of their dysfunctional family walks a fine line between domestic comedy and lurid tragedy, but the Thirsty Theater folks seem to have arrived at their interpretation without exploring their multifaceted text.
The result is as uneven and careless as a classroom exercise. Cyndi Rhoads lights up the stage with her portrayal of the repressed Leonora, her darting hands and boxing-ring footwork hinting at conflicts and complexities simmering beneath a placid surface. But Alison Standish plays Becky–nicknamed “Babe”–as a lisping Kewpie doll barely able to toddle in her high-heeled shoes. The set perfectly replicates a well-worn country kitchen (complete with running water!), but the floor tiles are painted in ludicrous forced perspective. Birthday candles are ignited with the cake still in its box because a proper cake box wasn’t obtained, and a missed costume change makes Becky appear to have paid a hospital call wearing only a raincoat thrown over her underwear–an unlikely event even in Henley’s eccentric universe.
Some of these flaws might have been opening-night glitches, but they gave the efforts of a company savvy enough to know better a regrettably amateurish tone.
–Mary Shen Barnidge