Crimes of the Heart a sister act worth sitting through
August 5, 2008
ASPEN As I walked out of a performance of Theatre Aspens Crimes of the Heart at the Alex Kaufman Theatre, the woman in front of me told her young son that, to truly understand the play, it might help to have sisters.By which I think she meant, It helps to have a person in your life whom you love dearly, cant live without, but with whom you are also still infuriated because 23 years ago she got two extra cherries in her Coke at the Oak n Bucket restaurant and she wouldnt give you one. (I have a few sisters.)There are men in the play, of course, but they seem to exist as peripheral characters who add something to the plot, then dash off. And, in the case of Lennys love interest and Babes husband, they exist only as an unheard voice on the other end of the phone. The entire Beth Henley play takes place during a two-day gathering at the sisters childhood home, under the premise that one of them, Babe, has just killed her husband. Even without the impending threat of a jail sentence, a sick grandfather, three love interests and a condescending cousin in the mix, the sisters relationship is volatile. Jealousy, sadness, anger, affection and laughter all roller-coaster through the stage in a matter of minutes, making it a challenging play for any actress. As if they are truly sisters, actresses Janet Metz (Lenny), Lisa Datz (Meg) and Sandy Rustin (Babe) do a nice job of clearly distinguishing themselves as distinct personalities. Datz is so loud and expansive in her gestures that the audiences attention naturally drifts toward her when shes onstage. Thus, it is easy to sympathize with the ever-jealous Lenny, who still is troubled by everything from the extra jingle bells Meg wore in her petticoats to the former boyfriend who still prefers Meg to Lenny. Sally Mae Dunn is dead-on as the sisters uptight cousin Chick, evoking every passive-aggressive person Ive ever encountered. The scene in which she grimly and revealingly struggles into new pantyhose while bad-mouthing a series of family members is as priceless as it is ugly. It conveys her character in a nutshell: Shes so obsessed with the appearance of perfection in the community that all her ugliness oozes out among her family. At the heart of Henleys play are serious issues: domestic violence, suicide, troubled childhoods, ruined dreams, the fragile nature of love and death. But this performance dwells not too long on any of these issues, so much so that the characters, especially Babe, often appear to not really understand what is going on. A campy sense of humor, inappropriate laughter or plain petty fights rescue any dives the play might make toward serious emotion. And while the characters are constantly escaping through the three doors on the set (one to the upstairs, one to the outside world and one to the oven), the tragi-comic nature of the scenes makes it impossible to believe anyone will permanently leave the world of their grandfathers kitchen at least without one another. I didnt even sweat through the oven suicide scene. And I left the play not melancholy or sad, but thoughtful. Mostly, I was a little closer to the memories of my own sisters than I normally am. I liked it, the woman walking in front of me said to her son. It was cute.Id have to agree. firstname.lastname@example.org
Crimes of the Heart will be presented Wednesday and Thursday this week, with additional performances in the Theatre Aspen rotation through closing night on Aug. 23. Go to http://www.theatreaspen.org for the full schedule. Tickets are $40, available in advance at the Wheeler Box Office, or call 920-5770 or go to http://www.aspenshowtickets.com.