Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy, ”Crimes of the Heart” opened on Friday night, August 13, 2010 at the Whitmore Lindley Theatre in North Hollywood, CA. Directed by Veronica DiPippo and produced by Alicia Benavides Greenfield and Sonia Curtis Acerra the story takes place in Hazelhurst, Mississippi.
In this stage play, one disaster after another falls into the laps of three Southern sisters. The playwright presents the tragedies in the form of story-telling gossip which kept the audience captivated and enthralled. The play is Greek tragedy meets Southern comedy.
The 3 siblings, Lenny, Meg and Babe share a love/hate relationship with one another, which is particularly evident between the oldest sister Lenny (played brilliantly by Sonia Curtis) and the middle sister, Meg (portrayed by Victoria Profeta). The story takes place on Lenny’s 30th birthday, in which every one has appeared to have either forgotten or treated it as if it were no big deal. In addition to her ‘turning-30 blues,’ she is told that her 20 year old horse, Billy Boy, has been struck and killed by lightning. As if this weren’t enough to keep her in a funk, she is continually reminded by her sisters that she has a shrunken ovary, which Lenny fears will keep her from finding a husband.
"I love theater. I was raised in NYC . I’ve done lots of theater as an actress, and then had a non-for profit theater Co.in NYC, which I produced plays . I came to LA after 911, to continue my acting career on TV &film. I always had a burning desire to produce and then this wonderful opportunity presented it self. I then realize that this was a gem. To work with mostly strong women from director to producers. I couldn’t turn it down .” said Alicia Benavides Greenfield, producer & actress. She continue “I’ve seen the film,and after reading the play by Beth Henley , I realized that it depicted and magnified quirky, dysfunctional, and traditional families. I felt strongly that anyone can relate to this fun emotional roller-coaster, hopefully not every day, but enough to feel for this strong characters portray in Beth Henley play.”
Lenny’s character is clearly sad, but endearing, as her trouble’s pale in comparison to her youngest sister, Babe (fancifully played by Kincaid Walker) who has just shot her husband, Zachary, in the stomach. When asked why she did it, she only replies, ”I didn’t like his voice.”
“Myself I’m from NYC have a strong desire to raise the bar. I have a strong theater background. LA theater is not as prevalent or respected as theater in NY. Hopes are to bring that belief-system to LA, and bringing the respect for Theatre here in Los Angeles. Why not ? The audience gets to see a live performances at affordable prices , and every nite as you know is different. Spontaniety is good ! As I’m a working Actress, I will continue to produce plays and films.” Concluded Ms. Benavides.
With Babe in deep trouble, the middle sister, Meg, returns from Hollywood, where her singing career has fallen apart due to going temporarily insane and becoming a lush, involving herself with too many men. The siblings grandfather is in the hospital possibly on his death bed and Meg doesn’t have the heart to tell him that she’s working a regular job and no longer singing. She concocks a few far-fetched stories about co-starring in a film and recording her new album to appease him. The story weaves in the fabric of life experience, just a true life experience molds us as children into who we become as adults. The 3 sisters have become accustomed with a dramatic and tragic existence, starting from their own troubled childhood, having to deal with their mother hanging herself with her cat to escape their abusive father.
“I love the play and did a scene from it in a Larry Moss advanced intensive. Larry gave me the part of Lenny and I was really moved by how deep she is and how funny and witty these southern characters in the play are. My friend Victoria Profeta and I had worked together on Laundry and Bourbon and wanted to work together again and after reading dozens of plays we chose Crimes of the Heart.” said producer & actress Sonia Curtis Acerra. She continue “I love the blend of comedy and drama in the play, and think it is a great play with a lot of heart and also wonderful roles for women. Larry Moss also told me that I should do the play, and I really respect Larry and trust his insight, so I did!”
Although the stories are comedic and seem chancy, Henley has created a touching story which relates to all and transcends time. The zany, offbeat behavior of the sisters take on a life of their own – silly, yet believable logic – so much so that when Babe explains that after she shot Zachary she made herself a pitcher of lemonade because she was thirsty, it seems perfectly realistic and normal. The writing of this play is sheer perfection, and the actors portray the characters with a believable brilliance. The sisters deal with each catastrophe in their own maniacal manner. It’s their survival instinct, bond with one another, honesty and love that makes this play believable as the audience sympathizes and laughs with them through each embellished experience. Through the silliness, the sadness and the wacky tales, this comedy drama is ultimately about letting go of the past and facing the future with hope, uncertainty and freedom.
Ms. Acerra added. “I hope to entertain the viewers and bring them both to laughter and tears. Theater and film provide a safe place for the audience to emote and experience their feelings by giving them permission to let go, so hopefully we are giving them that experience. As for the message, There is a theme of abuse in the play and showing women being oppressed a bit by men, plus it shows a character who is too afraid to stand up for herself but through her love for her sisters and with their support she finds the courage she needs to stand up and fight back.”
It is a perfectly blended mix of laughter and emotion. Under Veronica DiPippo’s sensitive direction, the Whitmore Lindley Theatre production comes across funny, believable and moving. The actors played their roles truthfully and their comedic timing was excellent. Their accents were convincing and the stage and dress were set true to the time period.
“My husband and I are going to produce a short film called “Most Precious Blood” about human trafficking, and I have a few scripts around town that I am trying to get the financing for or get sold to a network and made for television.” Ms. Acerra concluded.
The actresses – Sonia Curtis as Lenny, Brenda Lasker as Cousin Chick, Victoria Profeta as Meg and Kincaid Walker as Babe.
The actors – Nate Orr as Meg’s former boyfriend – Doc Porter, and Alec Beard as Babe’s lawyer, Barnette.
”Crimes of the Heart” is playing at the Whitmore Lindley Theatre located at 11006 Magnolica Blvd., North Hollywood, CA. 91601. Scheduled shows are August 13-15,th 20-22nd and 27-29th. To find out more go to www.cimesoftheheart2010.blogspot.com