The Chenango River Theatre is doing a great job of helping me relive some of my favorite ‘80s movies, live and on stage. First, it was “Other People’s Money” last month; now, it’s “Crimes of the Heart.”
You remember that 1986 chestnut, don’t you? All Southern Gothic with a comedic twist and an all-star cast - Sissie Spacek, Jessica Lange and Diane Keaton? Well I’d forgotten most of it, actually. If memory serves, I saw it at the dollar theater in Oswego, dragged there by a bunch of girls from my dorm and thoroughly unimpressed, despite what the critics at the time were saying.
The folks down in Greene, quickly becoming my favorite troupe, changed that impression last weekend as I got to see “Crimes of the Heart” up close and personal.
And personal, it is. Weaving parody and melodrama seamlessly, “Crimes” tells the story of three Southern Belles – Lenny, Meg and Babe McGrath, who converge on their hometown of Hazelhurst, Miss. after young Babe is accused of shooting her elderly husband. It doesn’t take the audience long to figure out that the McGrath girls are about as dysfunctional as they come. Raised by their grandfather after their mother hung herself (and the cat – don’t ask) in the basement, Lenny (Heidi Weeks) is a wallflower and worrywart, Meg (Nicole Davidsen) is a boozy washed-up singer, and Babe (Haley Zale) is a few dances short of a cotillion.
Things go from bad to worse over the course of a single day and night, as the sisters’ sordid lives begin to unravel before our very eyes. The tone of the play, written by Beth Henley, changes effortlessly from comedy to drama in the blink of an eye. The chemistry among the three sisters, ranging from childlike silliness to raging contempt, is utterly believable in any family context, and the three members of the Chenango River Theatre cast bond them with the audience over the course of a couples hours as if they’d known them their entire lives...