Playhouse’s ‘Crimes’ touches the heart

crimes-of-the-heart.jpgBy Neena Strichart

Knowing I was going to see what was billed by the Long Beach Playhouse as a “Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece” put me on my best behavior as an audience member.
Such great expectations of the studio theatre’s Crimes of the Heart was a bit unnerving, however—what if I wasn’t sophisticated enough to grasp the greatness? What if the hype was overblown and I would walk away disappointed? What if I just relaxed and enjoyed a nice Friday night of theatre? I decided on the latter—and was richly rewarded.
This tight little yarn just oozes with Southern charm, resentment and controversy.
We have dear Lenny (Amy Moorman) on her way to spinsterhood semi-celebrating her 30th birthday while baby sister Babe (Lisa Perez) gets bailed out of the pokey for shooting her own husband—although she won’t say why, and at the same time sister songstress Meg (Stephanie Schulz) comes in from California to join the others while they await news of their darling hospital-bound granddaddy. To make an even four, cousin Chick (Dee Dee Rescher) barges in and out telling them all how to feel and behave.
Four women in one kitchen (and a little time on the porch) makes for an intense and focused play. Just when the story needs a little testosterone to temper all the flowing estrogen on stage enter Doc Porter (Julian Draven) as Meg’s jilted lover, and Barnette Lloyd (Daniel Dotterer) as the lawyer trying to keep Babe from going to jail permanently.
At times, one finds it difficult to keep the characters and storyline straight while watching a play. I have found myself repeatedly referring to my playbills or programs many times over the years. No need to even sneak a glance at written material during Crimes of the Heart. It is engaging and easy to follow because the actors make it so. They are so convincing that at one point I remember feeling as though I were eavesdropping and peeping through a giant keyhole.
Although each character portrayed his or her part with flair and passion, I must say I was especially moved by Moorman’s Lenny and Perez’ Babe. The tears and emotions were so real I wanted to comfort them.
The only caution I will offer is to let you know that this play does contain some adult language and innuendo. Although I have no problem with R rated material, I understand that some of our readers do.
The fundamentals of journalism include the who, what, when, where, how and why of the story. The essential qualities of good theatre, in my opinion, are a good venue with a cooperative and respectful audience, believable acting, a great script, good direction and better-than-average set, sound and lighting system. This play has it all—in spades.
Crimes of the Heart continues on the Studio Theatre Stage at the Long Beach Playhouse (5021 East Anaheim Street) through Nov. 24. General admission tickets are $22, $20 for seniors. Student tickets are $12 on Fridays and Saturdays with valid student ID. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees Nov. 4 and 11 at 2 p.m.
Call (562) 494-1014 for reservations and information. Tickets are also available online at

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