The Column Online



By Beth Henley

Theatre Frisco

Director- M. Shane Hurst
Stage Manager-Sienna Riehle
Producer-Howard Korn
Artistic Director- Neale Whitmore
Set Design and Construction- Rodney Dobbs
Lighting Design- Alex Ammons
Costume Design-Dallas Costume Shoppe

Lenny McGrath, the oldest sister- Amanda Carson Green
Chick Boyle, the sisters’ first cousin- Andra Hunter
Doc Porter, Meg’s old boyfriend-David Heaton
Meg McGrath, the middle sister-Kiani Stone
Babe, the youngest sister-Alyson Wells
Barnette Lloyd, Babe’s lawyer-Jacob Catalano

Reviewed Performance: 10/1/2017

Reviewed by Mildred Austin, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

This play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1981 and was nominate for a Tony Award for Best Play. In 1986 the film adaptation, directed by Bruce Beresford, garnered three Academy Award nominations: Henley for Best Adapted Screenplay, Tess Harper for Best Supporting Actress and Sissy Spacek for Lead Actress for her performance as Babe. The story takes place at the home of Old Granddaddy in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, where three sisters have assembled because of the predicament of the youngest, Babe. Henley often writes of Southern women and interspersed between the frequent hilarity of their phraseology she interjects the defining and confining of women by society.

Theatre Frisco performs in a black box theatre inside the Frisco Discovery Center. The audience is seated on three sides and the performance I saw was almost sold out. The theatre itself presents challenges for staging an intimate play such as this one. The floor is concrete and the high heels of several of the actresses almost echoed and would have benefitted from being rubberized. The set which was the kitchen of Granddaddy’s house was made far too large by the parameters dictated by the stage area. Downstage was rarely used as a result and everything else was too spread out for this private baring of the “crimes of the heart” committed by each of the sisters.

The oldest sister, Lenny, was charmingly played by Amanda Carson Green. Green is adept at every detail of her character and her stage business tellingly portrays her fastidiousness which has filled the emptiness in her life left by her flight from love and intimacy. Green’s voice and demeanor bespeak the age of the eldest of the trio and when she lets go finally with the pent up jealousy she has harbored for her sister Meg it is both funny and heart rending.

Meg, played by Kiani Stone, is a larger-than-life “take what she wants” failed professional singer. Stone has perfect comic timing and her laugh is so real as to turn the audience to laughter at the sound of it. Her night out with former boyfriend, Doc Porter, played by David Heaton, is a sad realization that she let her biggest chance at the “brass ring” slip by without her recognizing it until the present. Stone’s characterization is spot on: earthy and devil-may-care but underneath unsure and tender of heart.

Heaton proves a good “town doc”: laid back, spare of words, but willing to commit his own crime of the heart when the occasion presents itself. His speech and physical manner are indicative of the small town good guy.

As Babe, the sister whose newsworthy behavior has brought the family together, Alyson Wells has the physical qualities of her character down and would be totally believable except for her voice, which becomes tinny and high pitched in the voluminous space of the black box theatre. But for that, her character has the requisite physicality, facial expression and honesty the character requires. Her stage business is absolutely impeccable: rolling her hair in one scene and successfully lighting a large number of candles on a birthday cake in another are impossible to pull off but she does these while in character and speaking at the same time.

Andra Hunter rounds out the family as Chick, the first cousin of the sisters and granddaughter of the spoken of but never seen Old Granddaddy. Hunter looks the part and successfully pulls of the “Love you but only when you do what I say” routine she has obviously done for years with the sisters. She is the voice of the community who doesn’t understand what transpires in the complex inner and outer lives of her cousins. Her characterization is a bit more one dimensional than the other women.

Last, Jacob Catalano as Barnette Lloyd, the lawyer who has been called in to defend Babe for shooting her husband, is physically believable in the role, but seems often uncomfortable onstage, perhaps due to an ill-fitting costume which perhaps meant to make a point, but misses that point and just looks messy: pants too tight, shirt sleeves too short.

Director M. Shane Hurst, attempted to make use of the huge stage area but it proved a challenge. Areas were unclear. Did the set include the kitchen AND the living room? Where did that upstage door go? It was never opened. Were the stairs in the kitchen? Did the cot HAVE to be onstage or was it there as a seating opportunity for characters? The table also provided challenges. At times it seemed the actors were playing Musical Chairs, going round and round the table. And on the given of a thrust stage, why did actors line chairs up in a straight line as if performing on a proscenium? And why was smoking necessary? Electronic cigarettes fool no one and look fake (which they are).

I was disappointed there was no music for this play. It cries out for it and nowhere more than at the final “curtain”. Music would have helped so much to set the scene, the time, the place and the tone of the play.

Costumes were provided by Dallas Costume Shoppe and for the most part set the period of the play. But then there was that ill-fitting suit and high heels that clomped and echoed. The set pieces were terrific, particularly the old gas range and period refrigerator. Farmhouse cabinetry completed the kitchen.

CRIMES OF THE HEART at Theatre Frisco is a must see. Great play, thoughtful acting. Now through October 15.

Theatre Frisco located in the
Black Box Theatre at the Frisco Discovery Center
8004 N. Dallas Parkway, suite 200
Frisco, TX 75034
(972) 370-2266

Friday and Saturday nights 8:00 p.m.
Sundays 2:30 p.m.

Tickets online at
Friday and Saturday night, Sunday matinee: $12--$20

Plays through October 15th