Produced by: TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Directed by: Giovanna Sardelli
Featuring: Sarah Moser, Therese Plaehn, Lizzie O'Hara, Laura Jane Bailey, Joshua Marx, Timothy Redmond
Running time: 150 minutes, one intermission
When: January 11 through February 5, 2017
Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View
Tickets: $31-$80; visit theatreworks.org or call 650-463-1960
in "Crimes of the Heart"
of Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize-winner
There is much to like about the TheatreWorks Silicon Valley production of Beth Henley's "Crimes of the Heart," from the Pulitzer Prize-winning script to Andrea Bechert's gorgeous scenic design.
But for me, the greatest charm is the cast and the direction, especially the three fabulous women who play the sisters at the heart of the play, Sarah Moser, Lizzie O'Hara and Therese Plaehn.
Moser, on her very own, is a master class in stage movement, making Meg Magrath a powerful, sexually confident lioness, conquering the stage in the way her body moves. We've seen Moser before at TheatreWorks, in "The Great Pretender" and "Time Stands Still," and the distance between those three roles have only one thing in common: The great actor who made them come alive.
Lizzie O'Hara is someone I happen to be friends with on Facebook, although I have never met her in person. We have a lot of mutual friends. She packs a lot of adorableness and talent into her petite self, and delivers the humor and the pathos of her character, Babe Botrelle, with voice and movement. She's a delight, in her first show with TheatreWorks.
And Therese Plaehn is excellent in her TheatreWorks debut as the eldest of the sisters, Lenny Magrath, who is desperately, pathetically lonely, beaten down by being a 30-year-old, shy spinster in the gothic South of Mississippi in 1974.
Kudos to director Giovanna Sardelli, for putting this fine trio and the rest of the cast together to tell Henley's story with such humor and grace.
The play opens with Lenny doing something that is both pathetic and hopeful: She is trying to light a candle to sing "Happy Birthday" to herself. She's not going to let being alone stop her from doing something good for herself. It takes her a few tries to get it right.
Cousin Chick, played by an audience favorite, Laura Jane Bailey, shows up for some very amusing stuff involving panty hose, and to share some news about the youngest sister, Babe, who recently shot her husband, Zachary.
Zachary (whom we never see) is still in the hospital, and Babe is out of custody, expecting to have to go to prison. Her sister Meg arrives from Hollywood, where her stardom has faltered, and the three sisters get down to the beautiful and revelatory business of helping each other survive.
Also along for the story are Timothy Redmond as Doc Porter, who still holds a torch for Meg, who broke his heart ages (and a wife and children) ago; and Joshua Marx as Barnette Lloyd, who is only too happy to serve as Babe's lawyer, because he holds a grudge against Zachary, and has had a crush on Babe ever since she sold him an orange pound cake at a bazaar, years ago.
This show drips Southern charm (and humor) like moss off a magnolia tree. "Doc married a Yankee!?" "I am not a liberal! I am a Democrat!"
It must be mentioned that in real life (What a concept!), O'Hara and Marx are wife and husband, and they have one of the funniest scenes together, when they are surprised in a flirtation and pretend to be dancing. Marx is about eight feet tall, and O'Hara would fit in a tea cup, so it makes for special charm.
Gotta give a shout-out to costume designer Cathleen Edwards, whose clothing very accurately helps tell this story, from "modest" sexiness to nerdish lawyerness. And to lighting designer Steven B. Mannshardt, whose work, as usual, is superlative.
There are lots of little surprises in this show.
But when it all comes down to the final tally, this show is about family love, and how even when crazy is in the genes, siblings will find a way to support and love each other.
Email John Orr at email@example.com