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January 24, 2012 > Theatre Review: Crimes of the Heart

Theatre Review: Crimes of the Heart

By Mauricio Segura

Crimes of the Heart can be considered a dark tragic comedy. Equally balanced, it's as disturbing as it is funny with a touch of heartwarming nuance.

Set in 1974 Missisippi, this twang-filled play covers a 24 hour period in the hard luck lives of the MaGrath sisters. All three were raised in a dysfunctional family and now, as adults, are dealing with hardship and misery. One sister, Babe, is fresh out of jail for shooting her husband in the stomach and now awaits trial. Ironically, one of the best defense lawyers in town is her ailing husband. Meg ran off to Hollywood with hopes and dreams to become a star but the spotlight just didn't shine in her direction; she returns home from a fresh stint in the loony bin. And finally Lenny, just 30, already feels washed up. With no friends, aside from her louder than average cousin, Chick, and a life not fully lived, she has practically given up on any chance of true happiness.

The sisters reunite when their grandfather's stroke leaves him in a coma at the local hospital. During the ordeal, they are forced to face inner personal demons, taking one to the brink of suicide and the others to the edge of their own sanity. The three collaborate in an attempt to put out the fires of their personal and collective miseries.

One might wonder, "Where does the comedy fit into all of this?" Strangely, it just does. The genius of this play is that it is highly entertaining and funny yet doesn't take anything away from the seriousness of the situation.

All of the actors are exceptional, allowing the audience to relate to each character and understand them. Dawn Cates (Lenny) does a splendid job drawing the audience into her emotion-filled character. You truly feel for her and wish things turn out for the best. Monica Colleti's Meg is powerful; Meg sees herself, a star. Ariel Aronica (Babe) is a delight to watch. Aside from the cutest smile which lights up the theater, she plays her character with a likeable charm. You know she just shot her husband, but you're willing to forgive. Ariel also pulled off the only true act of physical comedy opposite the kitchen stove. I won't reveal the scene, but two words came to mind in this highlight of the evening... "Ouch" and "Bravo"!

Aside from the sisters, Mandy Armes who plays Chick, is quite the scene stealer. From the beginning, her one-liners and uppity attitude make Chick a funny addition. Phillip Raupach (Barnette) is systematic in the way he delivers his lines - not a bad thing. It was very easy to follow his dialog, and considering he plays a lawyer, it made sense. Finally, Rick Fish as Doc Porter might be easy to forget with only two short appearances in the entire play, but Rick brought so much life into Doc that he completely owned his scenes.

Overall, Crimes of the Heart is a kaleidoscope of emotions. It took a few minutes for me to truly get into it, but once dialed in, I couldn't tune out. It was funny, horrendous, and sad, but a true hit for as evening at the theater.

Crimes of the Heart
November 11 - December 17
8 p.m. (1 p.m. Sundays)
Broadway West Theatre
4000 B Street, Fremont
(510) 683-9218

Performance times are 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. There are three Sunday matinees: Jan 29, Feb 5 and 12. Jan 29 and Feb 5 performances begin with a continental brunch (included in price of ticket) at 12:15 pm, and the show begins at 1 pm. The Feb 12 performance starts at 1 pm with refreshments during intermission (included in price of ticket).

Regular ticket prices are $23 general and $18 for Students, Seniors and TBA members. Thursday, Jan 26, Feb 9 and 16 performances are $15 for everyone, with a bargain Thursday held on Feb 2 - all tickets $10. Brunch Sunday performances and Opening night are $23 for everyone. All ticket prices include refreshments.

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