“Crimes of the Heart,” the Theater Department’s first mainstage production of the fall semester, captured mine.
Written by Beth Henley and directed by Assistant Professor Connie Rotunda, the dark comedy is about three sisters who reunite after five years apart under tragic circumstances.
What I valued most about this performance was that none of the leading actors slacked off, even though they could have. Each actor held their own, which made for a remarkable and memorable performance.
Usually productions that require the use of southern accents make me cringe, but the actors were careful not to sound too overdone. They focused on their characters and allowed the accents to become part of their persona.
The youngest sister, Babe, played by third-year theater performance major Jamie Kracht, has just been bailed out of jail after shooting her husband. She faces an uncertain and scary future.
However, Babe is spunky and hopeful, and doesn’t show any remorse for the crime she committed. Kracht’s depiction of Babe’s wide-eyed, naïve personality was impeccable, and I found myself getting lost in her anecdotes and shaking my head in response to her silly remarks.
The most eccentric of the three sisters is Meg, played by third-year theater performance major Emma Schunk. Leaving her life of luxury in Hollywood, she comes home, ready to kick back with her sisters and an old flame.
Meg is intrusive, spoiled and self-centered, and Schunk portrayed this character perfectly. I couldn’t help but feel a seething hatred for her.
Opposite of Meg is Lenny, played by second-year theater performance major Brittany Martel. Lenny, the oldest, most reserved sister, is plagued with infertility due to a shrunken ovary. She struggles to allow herself to be loved — a concern she voices in a heartwarming monologue that moved me to tears.
The supporting roles helped to fill in the gaps in the storyline and often acted as comic relief when scenes were too tense.
The sisters’ annoyingly judgmental cousin, Chick Boyle, played by second-year theater performance major Jessica Contino, was hilarious when she barged in and shrilled insults at an intolerable octave. Babe’s attorney, Barnette Lloyd, played by third-year theater performance major Rob Gagnon, is a sweet, nerdy youngster with a childhood crush on Babe and an endearing demeanor. Doc Porter, played by third-year art major Marco DaSilva, was the smooth-talking love interest of both Meg and Lenny, and did a great job creating tension between the sisters.
I did feel that certain moments of poignancy could have been further elongated through silence. The play was full of pertinent decision-making requiring at least minimal thought. However, each actor’s ability to not only act, but react, outweighed any criticism I had for the performance.
Separately, each sister’s depiction of their character stood firm. Whether Kracht showed her defiance by playing her saxophone at an inconvenient time, Schunk jumped on the kitchen counter and ate candy not belonging to her or when Martel stuck her hands into her frumpy pockets, it was clear who was who.
For about an hour and a half, my heart fluttered with Meg, fell with Lenny and flinched with Babe as the sisters retold their painful past and dealt with the lurking future through dramatic monologues and borderline slapstick humor.