‘Crimes of the Heart’ at Gloucester Stage shares something real

GLOUCESTER – “Crimes of the Heart” won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 as a drop-dead funny look at some of life’s dark disasters – loneliness, divorce and terminal illness. The Gloucester Stage Company revival this month gives the audience a heartfelt experience that ends its 33rd season on an upbeat note.For those who missed the Oscar-nominated motion picture, the play concerns three sisters who gather together when the youngest, Babe, shoots her soon-to-be ex-husband in the liver. Babe moves back in with Lenny, the oldest sister, and shortly after the play begins they are joined by Meg, the middle sister.As messed up as Babe’s life is – her estranged husband has photos of her with another man and he is threatening to use his political pull to get her committed to a mental hospital – she is running neck-and-neck with Lenny, a lonely 30-year-old on the verge of spinsterhood, and Meg, who abandoned the only man she really loved during a hurricane for a failed attempt at a Hollywood singing career.Playwright Beth Henley lets us in on their secrets one at a time and then lets her characters find the humor in it all, without ever asking for our sympathy – and director Carmel O’Reilly guides a seasoned cast through every moment. The audience is left with the feeling that they are sharing something real.As one actor said in a talk-back, “We play the truth of the scene.”Actress Melody Madarasz could easily make Babe the center of every scene she’s in, but she shares the spotlight effortlessly, in the best tradition of the ensemble cast actress, making her comic moments all the more explosive.McCaela Donovan makes Meg Magrath a believable game-changer for both her sisters. Liz Hayes’ Lenny is the remarkable performance in the show – she is so good at playing Lenny’s hunched over, beat-down manner that it isn’t until afterward that the audience realizes that she is taller than the actresses playing her sisters.The back-up actors are equally adept. Lenni Kmiec as the sisters’ pushy cousin starts the play off on a perfect note by donning panty hose on-stage in the first scene. Liam McNeill’s Doc Porter, Meg’s now-married former boyfriend, inhabits the nice guy she can share her secrets with. Will Keary is the height of sincerity as Babe’s lawyer – and maybe something more.As Meg says, these sisters “are just as sane as anyone walking the streets of Hazlehurst, Mississippi” – and likely a lot funnier.If You Go? “Crimes of the Heart” runs through Sept. 16 at the Gloucester Stage Company, 267 East Main St., Gloucester. Performances will beat 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with matinees on Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. Gloucester Stage is handicapped accessible. Tickets are $40 for all performances. Senior citizen andstudent tickets are $35 for all performances. For reservations orfurther information, call the Gloucester Stage Box Officeat 978-281-4433or visitwww.gloucesterstage.org.

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