“Crimes of the Heart” at Village Theatre

Here we are in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, in the mid 1970s smack dab in a kitchen (well designed by Andrea Bryn Birch) where three dysfunctional southern sisters can’t quite get a grip on life. They’re not criminals (well one actually is by legal standards), rather their crimes are mostly self- imposed crimes of the heart.

Lenny, the oldest and dreariest, has been living here in Grandaddy’s house taking care of him. Unfortunately, he’s now in the hospital and things don’t look good. Youngest sister, Babe, is out of jail on bail for having shot her husband in the stomach. Meg, the most beautiful of the trio, arrives from California to give moral support to her sisters and love to her dying grandfather, but mostly she is also returning from an unsuccessful attempt to establish herself as a singer and hoping perhaps to re-establish a romantic relationship. Though not wealthy, these women are indeed southern belles with high-pitched voices, “men” problems (either longing for them or unable to get along with them), and deep family ties.

Rhonda J. Soikowski as Lenny creates a woman with a pitiable efficiency and loneliness, someone who has the saddest birthday you can imagine. The glamorous Brenda Joyner creates a winning and wanting Meg, and Sydney Andrews epitomizes the lonesome failure of her character, Babe.

Directed by Kathryn Van Meter, it’s a pleasant enough production but one that doesn’t soar—not quite tragic and not fully comic.

Given my choice of “three sisters” give me the Chekhov’s siblings any day. I do, however, realize that there are huge numbers of audience members who like folksy, somewhat banal tales. This Pulitzer Prize winning play has been a favorite among regional theatres for years, has seen a couple of revivals on Broadway, and was a 1996 movie (with Diane Keaton, Jessica Lang, and Sissy Spacek). Obviously it’s got enormous appeal…just not for me, or at least not this production.

Through Feb. 28 at Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, 303 Front St. N., Issaquah, 425 392-2202, and March 4 – 27 at Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett, 425 257-8600, (VillageTheatre.org).

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