Originally due to be produced last year, Crimes of the Heart has finally made its appearance for Adelaide Rep.
Beth Henley won the Pulitzer for this play in 1979, and it went on to be made into a successful film in 1986, directed by Australian Bruce Beresford. It tells the story of the three Magrath sisters: Lenny, Meg and Babe. A tragic childhood led them to be raised by their grandparents in Mississippi. Babe married a local lawyer and senator; Meg moved to Los Angeles to pursue her singing career. And Lenny was left to look after widowed Grandaddy.
The sisters are reunited, on Lenny’s 40th birthday, when Babe gets herself into trouble with the law. This is a classic Southern dark comedy, with family secrets aplenty, and troubled, but loving relationships. At its core, this is an exploration of sisters: they can criticize each other all they like, but woe-betide anyone else who tries!
Georgia Stockham gives an outstanding performance as Lenny. The chemistry between her and Allison Scharber as Babe, is worth the price of admission on its own. Cheryl Douglas is delightful as Meg but has yet to truly relax into the character. The rest of the ensemble – Adam Schultz, Deborah Proeve and Steve Marvanek – all put in a solid day’s work, but much of the dialogue is hampered by strained accents and sluggish comic timing. Geoff Brittain has directed with an intelligent eye, although there was some clunky blocking that seemed to just be movement for movement’s sake.
No doubt many of these issues will settle down as the season continues, and the actors lean into the dialogue more.
Crimes of the Heart is a truly enjoyable and satisfying night in the theatre – an enthusiastic and competent group of actors, working against the backdrop of Ole Wiebkin’s brilliant set, with a tight and clever script.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten