Three pre-middle aged sisters in the small town of Hazelhurst, Miss. in 1974 endure life’s little kicks in the pants while competitiveness, self-righteousness and guilt are paramount to their relationships. So is love.
After shooting her husband in the stomach because she doesn’t like the way he looks, Yerger-Glanton as Babe Botrelle is pure southern belle, who is also over-the-top batty.
Since the ol’ boy lives through it, though, the plot thickens.
Gladly coming to Babe’s rescue is newbie lawyer Barnette Lloyd, comically portrayed by John Brumley. He’s happy to take Babe’s case, as he’s had a crush on her for years since she sold him pound cake at a bazaar. Obviously wet beyond the ears, the attorney fumbles at his job, but with some great lines.
Central to the plot is the sisters’ grandfather, who is on his deathbed. After suffering another stroke while in the hospital, they dash over to see him. He has slipped into a coma. Though it’s not an amusing event, the sisters manage to find laughs out of it, engaging the audience in the jokes.
Their mother’s suicide is also at the core. We learn early on that she hung herself. That comes up often, and when Babe sticks her head into the gas oven, bumping it hard as her sister pulls her out, it feels like a Lucy and Ethel moment in the 21st century.
As Babe, Yerger-Glanton is bound in naïveté. It’s hard to tell whether she’s in denial about her crime or just plain ditsy. The actress’ role in “Crimes of the Heart” at Circle Theater won her a Column Award nomination. She has also performed at Theater Arlington and Stage West.
Previously at CT, she appeared in “Steel Magnolias,” “Blue Moon Dancing” and “Right Ho.”
Lenny Magrath is played believably by Diane Casey Box, who excels as the pitiful, eternal victim who’s still upset that her sisters got to have more jingle bells on their petticoats than she did.
Lenny is needy, although somehow endearing. She makes it known at every opportunity that she has one shrunkan ovary, which she believes is why she’s never married. The action takes place on her 35th birthday, which also becomes a shtick. She takes a chance, with her sisters’ encouragement, at calling an old flame, who seems happy to hear from her and asks her out.
Box has been seen at CT in “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Shadowlands” and “Laundry & Bourbon.” She has been cast at Kitchen Dog Theater, Theatre 3 and Uptown Players as well.
Also taking a chance is Dan Burkarth as Doc Porter, who wastes no time getting an offer he can’t refuse out of Meg Magrath. Burkarth is fairly nondescript, which could be intentional in his role.
When Whitney Holotik enters stage left as cousin Chick Boyle, she isn’t greeted warmly. Dressed in her cutesy outfit and ratted hair (today it’s “yuppie” outfit and teased hair), the sisters bristle at her sassy entitlement, self-righteousness and out-of-date mentality. She criticizes everything, ad nauseum.
The Magraths are the epitome of your basic, dysfunctional family. The most laugh-out-loud lines are delivered when the three Magrath sisters are together, bickering and playing off each other. All three of them have acute comedic timing. They create one laugh after another.
As Meg Magrath, Marianne Galloway is so off the wall, she garners laughs each time she opens her mouth. But she’s also the more intelligent, empathetic sister, albeit the sleazy one of the trio. She’s a singer who has reached the end of her own rope seeking a job. She seems to be the glue holding the sisters together.
Galloway has both directed and appeared at CT in shows including “Izzy in the Rabbit Hole,” for which she won a DFW Critics Forum award for best actress, and she was nominated for the 2009 Column Award for “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Her other roles have been at Theatre 3, Kitchen Dog, Uptown Players, Dallas Children’s Theater, among others.
SMU’s Beth Henley wrote “Crimes of the Heart,” which earned her the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for drama. She was nominated for a Tony Award for best play after a two-year run on Broadway, and was recognized with the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award.
Henley went on to write a screenplay of the same title, starring Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton and Jessica Lange. The film was nominated for three Oscars, won a Golden Globe and was nominated for and won several other prestigious awards.
“Crimes of the Heart” will continue its run at Contemporary Theatre, 5601 Sears St., Dallas 75206 through July 25, with performances Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. For additional information, call 214-828-0094 or visit contemporarytheatreofdallas.com.