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Seemingly dark plot lights up stage

A production that predominantly features the topics of a manslaughter charge, suicide, lost opportunities and the harsh reality of growing older would not typically be thought of as a comedy. However, when coupled with a fabulous cast and a cleverly-written script, this unusual feat can be pulled off successfully.

Thus, Good Company Players presents Crimes of the Heart, a poignant and, at times, darkly humorous comedy by Beth Henley.

The show observes three eccentric sisters who are brought together and ultimately deepen their understanding of each other in the midst of their equally upsetting and challenging lives. Director Denise Graziani teamed up with six actors at the 2nd Space Theatre to bring this touching production to a Fresno audience.

The year is 1974 and oldest sister Lenny MaGrath (Elizabeth Fiester) has never left her childhood home in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. She is a shy homebody who has been too busy caring for her ailing grandfather to indulge in romance. On her 37th birthday, she is surprised by the arrival of her younger sister Meg (Britt Downs), whose failed singing career in Hollywood, coupled with an abundant string of meaningless relationships have left Meg feeling alone and disappointed.

The pair must rally together to protect their youngest sister, Babe Botrelle (Brandi Martin) from a murder charge. Babe is accused of trying to kill her husband, Zachary; however when asked what motivated such a rash action, she refuses to explain herself and merely replies that she ?didn?t like his looks.?

They join forces with a serious young lawyer, Barnette Lloyd (Raul Reyes), to clear Babe?s good name. This will not be an easy task, as the MaGrath girls? reputations are already a bit tarnished due to the national news coverage their mother received when she committed suicide by hanging herself along with her pet cat.

Despite this seemingly tragic turn of events, hilarity ensues as Lloyd falls for his kind and misunderstood client, Meg ignites an old flame with her childhood friend Doc Porter (Rick Timmons), Lenny experiences the thrills of a new romance and the sisters deal with their obnoxious and pretentious cousin Chick Boyle (Laura Tromborg).

Although I had never heard of Crimes of the Heart before, I am familiar with 2nd Space?s high quality shows and held high expectations for this production. I was not disappointed.

While the plot is incredibly depressing at first glance, the cleverly incorporated humor made it much more lighthearted and enjoyable than it may appear. The quirky characters each brought a unique feeling to the show, for their individual personalities perfectly captured the small town stereotypes they embodied.

I was pleased with everyone?s performance; however, the three sisters stood out to me, partially because they were the most relatable and likable and partially because their acting was truly impressive.

Fiester did a wonderful job with creating a timid, lonely, single woman whose fears prevented her from seizing the somewhat risky opportunities life presented her with.

Downs?s role as the fearless, wild sibling provided a stark contrast to her sisters? less abrasive personalities. As a singer I related to her desire to make it big in Hollywood and I admire her gumption, although at times it has gotten her into trouble.

Martin?s portrayal of a will of the wisp girl was carried out with talent. Her character?s personality was complex and she managed to clearly convey all of the emotions a well-meaning young woman who finds herself in over her head would experience in that stressful situation.

All three were convincing in their parts and their relationships and interactions with each other were fun to watch because they were believable.

There was only one set throughout the performance: the MaGrath’s kitchen, which contained the usual appliances as well as a table, cot, nightstand and rocking chair. Even though there were no set changes to visually enhance the show, it held my interest the entire time.

I appreciated the director’s attention to small details with the props, such as when Babe and Meg made lemonade by squeezing real lemons. The carrying out of these menial sorts of tasks made the scenes more realistic.

One of the most comical moments occurred when Chick managed to remove and don a pair of nylon stockings. This was no easy task and hushed exclamations such as, “I can’t believe she’s trying to put those on, it’s so hard!” were whispered throughout the audience.

The actors each underwent one costume change to signify the arrival of a new day. The costumes consisted of 70s-esque clothing and suited were appropriate to the personality of each character.

I thoroughly enjoyed Crimes of the Heart and would love to return to see 2nd Space’s next production, When We Are Married, which opens Feb. 23. I always walk away from this company’s shows impressed by the acting and overall quality.

Crimes of the Heart will be showing Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Feb. 19. Tickets are $15 for students and seniors and $16 for general admission.

For more drama reviews, read the Jan. 11 article,
Seinfeld evokes laughs through acclaimed, off-beat humor.

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