The Adelaide Rep has opened its 2021 season with an outstanding new interpretation of the 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Crimes of the Heart by American playwright, Beth Henley. Directed by Geoff Brittain, this black comedy is a daring new interpretation as it explores deeply into the varying degrees of the mental health issues experienced by three sisters as they gather together for a long-overdue family reunion at old Granddaddy’s home, who is suffering in hospital from a stroke and maybe hospitalised forever.
Award-winning director, Geoff Brittain has worked with several of Adelaide’s theatre groups. His outstanding directing credits for the Adelaide Repertory Theatre include The Diary of Anne Frank, The Miracle Worker, The Secret of Rapture, And a Nightingale Sang, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, The Deep Blue Sea, Playing Sinatra, Memory of Water and When the Rain Stop’s Falling – winner of the Adelaide Critics’ Circle Group Award 2016.
Brittain has created an emotional and entertaining revival for audiences depicting the challenging hardships the characters are undergoing, at the same time providing drama, humour, warmth and love that allows the characters to triumph over their adversity.
Once again Brittain has selected a well-written piece based on strong characters – “I like the strength of the characters. I usually select plays based on the characters in the play, rather than the play itself. It is also what the characters can do with the characters. A strong character they can get their teeth into.”
Brittain draws from this dramatic piece outstanding performances from this phenomenal cast that are believable and moving with touches of sympathy, madness insight and black humour – Cheryl Douglas (Meg), Georgia Stockham (Lenny), Allison Scharber (Babe), Steve Marvanek (Doc Porter), Adam Schultz (Barnette Lloyd lawyer) and Deborah Proeve (Chick).
The three sisters portrayed by Allison Scharber as Babe Scharber, Cheryl Douglas as Meg Douglas and Georgia Stockham as Lenny create emotional performances revealing their constant failure to cope with their mental health issues due to their dysfunctional childhood, owing to an absent father and a mother who committed suicide and took the family cat with her. Grandaddy raised the sisters after their mother’s tragic, but sensational departure
Due to their own actions, the three sisters reveal their essential needs and weaknesses as they struggle with differing degrees of hardships in their lives – Lenny hasn’t had a man (due to her misguided embarrassment about her shrunken ovary), Meg has had too many men. She is known all over Copiah County as cheap Christmas trash), and Babe has shot her man (because she didn’t like his looks) – each sister revealing their love for each other and hate for each other in the same second!
Deborah Proeve as Cousin Chick exhilarates the drama with her spreading ill will about their dysfunctional family and the latest gossip about Babe and Meg.
Cheryl Douglas as Meg is convincing in moving scenes when she is confronted with her lying about her failed singing career in Hollywood and her carefree actions of her younger days when united with Doc Porter, the man she loved and left stranded during their ill-fated weekend spent in the eye of a hurricane, that resulted in him being left with a limp.
Steve Marvanek as Doc Porter, in his two brief scenes, handles the challenge of the complexity very well.
Adam Schultz as the young and inexperienced lawyer defending Babe, who happens to have a crush on Babe from a previous brief encounter at a cake stall, gives a lively and convincing rendering to his role. He is impressive with his legal negotiating and haggling.
The production crew have done an excellent job with a set that provides a sense of a homely 1970’s sophistication. The see-through surrounding the kitchen window added depth and a sense of warmth giving insight and understanding of the time and place. The atmosphere is supported with music conjuring a suitable mood to the pending drama.