Saturday, February 7, 2015

Crimes of the Heart—Battle Ground Drama Club—Battle Ground, WA

“Three Weird Sisters”

This dark comedy by Beth Henley is directed by Stephan “Cash” Henry and is playing at The Lair at Battle Ground High School, 300 W. Main St., through February 14th.  For more information, please contact Henry at henry.stephan@battlegroundps.org or, for tickets, go to www.payments@battlegroundps.org


What first may be in order, is to explain the term “dark comedy.”  In short, this means finding humor in what would otherwise be a tragic story.  You’d think there would be no humor in a man getting shot by his wife; an “old maid” trying to find love; an affair between old flames, one married; an affair between a teen and a married woman; or a young man with a personal vendetta to settle, et. al.  Well, in this story, they all have a dramatically comic twist, thus, the term, a “dark comedy.”

There was a not very good movie made of this years ago with an A-list cast but it was ruined by trying to show everything the play only suggested, thereby robbing the audience of their chance to use their imagination (something sorely missing in movies of even today).  This story takes place in a small town in Mississippi in the mid-1970’s.
And people that have lived in small towns know there is no such thing as secrets, as everybody knows everything about anyone, or so they think.  And what they don’t know, they make up.  Consider, Steel Magnolias or To Kill A Mockingbird, as reference points. And so we follow a few hours in the lives of the Magrath sisters, who have lived here since birth.
Lenny, (Brandi Renyolds-Meyer), Ms. “plain-Jane,” is the eldest and would be considered an old maid (except there was this one night when she didn’t come home until the next day, from a date with Charlie).  And there is the middle sister, Meg (Cassidy MacAdam), the pretty one, a singer/star, who had been gallivanting all over the world, looking for love and success, only to find (like Dorothy did) that there is really “no place like home.”  And then there is Babe (Desiree Roy), the “crazy one,” who is as unpredictable as she is lovable.  Together they might be viewed, as the Bard would say, as the “three weird sisters.”

We also experience their next door neighbor, and their cousin, Chick (Madeline Hansen), the town gossip, and a thorn in everybody’s side.  Of the males, there is Doc (Cody Bronkhorst), who was the white knight for Meg some years ago and still secretly carries a torch for her.  And Barnette (Skyler Denfeld) a young lawyer, eager to make his mark, defending Babe on a charge of attempted murder to her husband, but also a bit smitten with this quirky young lady.  But, be advised, all is not as it seems, but to explain more, would be giving away some discoveries left to the viewing audience.

Henry has done a remarkable job, as he always does, of getting teenagers to search deep for all the little nuances that make up these characters and then project that for an audience.  This is not an easy play to perform (having directed a production myself many years ago) as the roles and subject matter are fairly complex and extracting the humor from such a dramatic setting is not an easy task.  But Henry has done it well, and with a cast of young people, only makes it more admirable.

The three sisters, who are the heart of the story, are, as my friend, also a theatre person, remarked that they are as good as any seasoned cast she’d seen.  I agree.  Those three young ladies, Renyolds-Meyer, MacAdam and Roy, are excellent.  They all accomplish what all actors strive for, to be so believable that you think they are that way in real life.  They did that for me, which is not an easy task, considering all the years I have been in the biz.  They all have careers in this field (as do past students of his, Sarah Russell and Sky Ring), I believe, if they wanted, as they certainly have the acting chops for it.  I look forward to
seeing them in other productions.

The set (Sundance Wilson Henry) is quite good, seems authentic for the 70’s, and allows for the actors plenty of performing space.  My only suggestion is that they might put more stuff in the fridge and cupboards because, when the actors open them, they look pretty bare, except for the props being used. And, if this family has been there for years, they would have accumulated plenty items to fill all the little nooks and crannies.

Also, the acoustics, being a cavernous space, are not great.  At times, when the actors hit a higher register or are speaking quickly, lines can get lost.  It is not volume, it is clarity.  Not the actors fault, just the space but careful diction would improve it during those moments.  And it would help if the audience was closer to the stage.  There are several feet of gap between the audience and the actual stage which, if chairs were set up to fill it, would give the audience more of an intimate feeling of the show.


This group, I’m sure, could use some funding for their Drama Club, to continue to produce the very good plays they do.  So if you can help, I’m sure they would appreciate it.  I recommend this production.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.