In the tiny, intimate space of The Theatre Machine, Toronto’s Sterling Theatre Company is presenting a production of Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart. Under the able direction of Miriam Laurence, the audience is transported back to the 1970s, and the lives of the Mississippi born and raised MacGrath sisters.
We were interested in the production from the off because of our friend, Natalie Krill. Ms. Krill takes on the role of the youngest MacGrath sister, Becky, known to all as Babe. Babe is naive, innocent, and honest in those regards. Of the three sisters, I think she is most haunted by her mother’s suicide as she sees that as a possibility for herself, all of which Krill brings to life with an earnest, and in turns hilarious and heartbreaking, performance.
She is joined on stage by the equally strong turns of Sheri Godda as eldest, just turned 30, sister, Lenny. Ms. Godda is nothing short of luminous in her performance, as she tries to keep her life and home as organized as she can while trying to deal with and love her two sisters.
The third sister, Meg, is the middle child, played by Danka Scepanovic, who plays Meg as a bit of a trainwreck. She left their tiny town to be a singer, but upon her return its evident that she is still a small town girl pretending to be bigger than her upbringing. Scepanovic is a whirlwind making for a perfect triumvirate, and these three actors are perfect together.
As the story unravels its amazing to watch these three actors together. The stage is, consequently, filled with a real sense of history between them, and there are so many perfect moments and beats between these siblings. There are laughs that become arguments, tears that lead to joy, and at the center of it are these three beautiful and talented women who bring their characters to life with apparent ease.
The crux of the story sees Meg returning home, as it seems Babe has got herself into some serious trouble, it’s Lenny’s birthday and their grandfather is in the hospital again.
The set design, by Sophie Ann Rooney, Ryan Tonkin and Kyle Labine recreates the MacGrath kitchen, one that is instantly recognizable to anyone who has family in a small town. It is the center of the house, and the audience butts right up against it, as we intrude into the turbulent lives and loves of these sisters. It is here, that stories are told, that gossip is shared, parties are held and life and loss is celebrated.
The cast is rounded out by Erin Boyes as Chick, am incredibly annoying, but hilariously performed neighbor and relative, Oliver Pigott is Doc, an ex of Meg’s, who plays the role in a quiet, almost sad way, and Micheal Eisner is Barnette, Babe’s much-needed lawyer, who shares some wonderful moments with Natalie’s Babe.
Crimes of the Heart is on stage from April 18th to May 2 at The Theater Machine on Dufferin Street. You can visit sterlingstudiotheatre.com for tickets. The show runs 2 and a half hours with a 15 minute intermission, but every minute of it flies by! If you’re looking for a wonderful stage experience, with a fantastic cast and story, you can’t ask for much better than this… Check it out while you can!