The Column Online


by Beth Henley

Richardson Theatre Centre

Director - Rachael Lindley

Assistant Director - Samantha McChesney Franks
Set Design - Charlie Alexander, Rachael Lindley
Set Construction - Charles Alexander, Robert Spollin, Morgan
Spollin, Khunk Bundy
Lighting Design - Charles Alexander, Rachael Lindley
Sound Design - Rachael Lindley
Costume Design - Rachael Lindley
Stage Manager - Natalie Williams
Playbill, Flyers, Postcard - Becky Byrley


Babe - Morgan Laura Garrett
Barnett - Joe Dietz
Chick - Lise Alexander
Doc Porter - R. Scott Cantrell
Lenny - Robin Liesenfelt
Meg - Poppy Hess

Reviewed Performance: 2/11/2011

Reviewed by Carol Anne Gordon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

In 1978, Beth Henley, a native Mississippian, was a co-winner of the Great American Play Contest of the Actors Theatre of Louisville for her very first play, "Crimes of the Heart". I remember reading the reviews of this original presentation in Time magazine, and the critic could not get enough of this "new genre" of minimalist Southern drama, this "tragicomedy" that was such a revelation.

I'm happy to report that "Crimes of the Heart", as performed by Richardson Theatre Centre, still holds up well thirty-three years later. It's not a laugh fest like "Greater Tuna", because it does have its serious moments (adultery, attempted murder, suicide), but overall it is more comedy than tragedy. It is also full of recognizable Southern "types" who, thankfully, are endearing rather than annoying.

This is due to the wise casting of Director Rachael Lindley, who chose three strong actresses that are completely believable as sisters. There is no weak link among them ? all three actresses fully bring out their well-defined and three-dimensional characters, and (thank God!) all of their Southern accents (though not the same) are authentic and not patronizing to actual Southerners.

As eldest sister/spinster Lenny, Robin Liesenfelt has the greatest distance to travel, character-wise, and she does so with poise and credibility. Poppy Hess makes middle child/black sheep Meg loveable despite her obvious disdain for marriage vows or any other proprieties that get in the way of her doing whatever makes her feel good. And Morgan Laur? Garrett, all lanky and fawn-like, plays baby sister/unashamed would-be murderer Babe with such sincerity that the audience wants to take her home, tuck her into bed, and protect her from the big bad world. Garret also delivers the most unique creation of fresh lemonade that I've ever seen!

From the moment you step into the Richardson Theatre Centre, the set, designed by Charlie Alexander and Rachael Lindley, carries you back to your own Old Granddaddy's house with its ancient icebox, gas stove, and enough kitschy knick knacks to choke not just Aunt Bee but the entire town of Mayberry.

Lindley's music choices of catchy "white gospel" tunes before and after the show, and during intermission, get the audience toe-tapping and humming along to songs we probably haven't heard since our last church retreat in high school.

Though the three McGrath sisters are the focus of the play, the three supporting actors also deliver strong performances. Lise Alexander, as annoying cousin Chick, provides her best comedy within minutes after curtain, when she struggles out of and back into too-tight pantyhose. The scene leaves her breathless with exertion and the audience breathless from laughing so hard.

The two younger McGrath sisters are the objects of unrequited love: Doc Porter is still pining for Meg even after she did him wrong a decade before and attorney Barnett is infatuated with Babe whose murder case he is handling. Being the only two men in a feminist classic is a tough row to hoe, but R. Scott Cantrell and Joe Dietz pull it off. Their parts are small, but these actors make them convincing and memorable.

Tailbone alert: this play is 2.5 hours long, even with the admirable fast pacing of the cast, and the seats at Richardson Theatre Centre's wonderful new large venue are not comfortable, so be sure to take a pillow to sit on when you go see this well-produced revival of a Southern classic.

Richardson Theatre Centre
2701 Custer Parkway, Suite 911, Richardson, TX 75080
Through February 20th

Thursdays at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm
Matinees Sundays at 2:00 pm

Tickets / Reservations / Box Office: 972 699 1130