Crimes of the Heart
by Canyon Crest Academy

Meg was the one who discovered their mother’s body. Years later, the three sisters are all adult women, and all have gone in far flung directions as people since their mother’s suicide, but all three are coming together for Lenny’s 30th birthday. Lenny, the eldest sister who stayed in the family home, is a homebody still just one incident shy of virginity. 27-year-old Meg has moved as far as possible from their small-town Southern home and is about a thousand incidents shy of virginity. And 24-year-old Babe, who has always been a bit touched, may have inherited too much of her mother’s fragile psyche, as Lenny’s birthday quickly becomes overshadowed by accusations that Babe shot her husband.

Canyon Crest Academy staged Beth Henley’s Pulitzer-winning play in their intimate black box theatre, and they hit both the drama and the comedy very well. In the end, finding even more comedy than originally planned.

Hannah Swenson is Lenny, clearly weary from a lifetime of living without ever really letting herself enjoy life, and about this close to exploding (which she does well). Cindy Mersten is Meg, and she’s a master of portraying the callous, jaded outer personality concealing her sensitive inner self, trying to punish herself for a guilt that haunts her. Nora King is the slightly touched, lemonade-obsessed Babe, with a natural sense of fragile sanity and childlike innocence. The differences between the three sisters are stark, but as a group the actors always make you feel something connects them.

The small cast includes Ryan Sandrew who does “nerdy” a little too well as the attorney Barnette trying to help Babe (who he’s always been a little sweet on) out of her serious jam, while at the same time settling a life-long vendetta of his. Chick is the sisters’ uber-talkative, self-obsessed town gossip cousin, all delivered by Eleot Reich with easy southern charm. And James Pratt is Doc who married a Yankee girl, but who used to have a thing for Meg – and still might have that thing.

The show I attended had hundreds of additional uncredited ensemble members. When Meg and Babe present Lenny with her 30th birthday cake, it came layered with countless ants. Which was an opportunity for the three quick-thinking actors to combine for what was likely the most amusing ending of any production of Crimes of the Heart as they dealt with yet another crisis in their lives using some great on-the-spot humor. The amusing adlibs included Lenny modifying her lines just a bit with the apropos, “Will you look at all those candles, and ants. It’s absolutely frightening.”

And, after blowing out her candles, being asked what she wished for? “No ants.” Which no doubt would make keeping sane a far easier task for anyone.

Performed December 11 - 18, 2008.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Lenny: Hannah Swenson
Meg: Cindy Mersten
Babe: Nora King
Doc: James Pratt
Barnette: Ryan Sandrew
Chick: Eleot Reich

Director: Lisa Berger
Stage Manager: Isabel Barbosa
Set Designer: Becky Pierce
Lighting Designer: Garret Agins


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