Pictured above: Emily Cleveland and Brendan Brady
How many plays do you remember a couple of decades after seeing them? Not that many, right?
Well, one play I have no trouble recalling is Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart” for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. The production I saw featured some of the then-top talents in San Antonio, including actor Bill Gundry, who is now revisiting this theatrical gem by directing a brand-new production of “Crimes” for the Playhouse San Antonio. It opened yesterday, June 2, and runs through June 25.
Best described as a tragicomedy, the play revolves around the three Magrath sisters – Lenny, Meg and Babe – who reunite in their family home in a small Mississippi town after the youngest, Babe, is arrested for attempting to kill her husband, a prominent lawyer. Tragedies, secrets and resentments cast huge shadows over their lives and their reunion. Their mother hanged herself, their father abandoned them and their beloved grandfather is very ill. And, of course, there’s the matter of the attempted murder.
It sounds bleak, but the dialogue and action are so skillfully crafted that you are much more likely to laugh than cry as you watch the three women tangle with each other over hurt feelings, painful memories and birthday chocolates, as well as with a few other characters, including their meddling cousin Chick, Meg’s former lover Doc Porter, and the young lawyer, Barnette Lloyd, who tries to help Babe.
Pictured Above: Kimberlyn Kacie, Erin Polewski and Emily Cleveland
The real theme of the play is family, said Gundry. “It happens with a lot of families. At first, its ‘Oh, so great to see you,’ but soon they go in all sorts of different directions,” he said. “Ultimately, stronger bonds emerge.”
Gundry is quite pleased with his cast, which he and the Playhouse’s artistic director George Green chose together. Two of the performers, Emilie Cleveland (Meg) and Brendan Brady (Barnette Lloyd), are from the state of Washington, Green’s old stomping ground before he relocated to San Antonio to take the helm of the city’s oldest theater. “The others are from San Antonio but I did not know any of them before they came to audition. It’s been a joy working with all of them,” said the director.
Erin Polewski portrays Lenny, Kimberlyn Kacie is Babe and Tyler Askins appears as Doc Porter. Rosa Gardner plays cousin Chick Boyle. By the way, one of the funniest scenes in the play belongs to Chick in which she tries to wiggle into a tight pantyhose.
“Crimes” is staged in the smaller Cellar Theater which should be perfect for an intimate family dramedy.
(For tickets and times visit www.theplayhousesa.org).