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‘Crimes’ a triumph for Theatre in the Valley

There’s a clue in the program notes that may explain why Theatre in the Valley’s “Crimes of the Heart” is so successful.

Director Jim Williams writes, “This is a human story about real life and real situations.” That may not sound like much, but when you consider that Beth Henley’s 1981 comedic drama features three loud, loony sisters who constantly say off-the-wall things, then you may find it amazing that a community theater has managed to keep this tale so very human.

Melanie Turner, Deanne Grace and Terri L. Gandy play three very different kinds of young women facing a crisis in a small Southern household. They fight hard and funny, but the three actresses get underneath the lines and show us the bond that holds them close. You believe by the way they talk to one another that they are siblings, that they have a long history together.

The production feels intimate in a feminine way. Each person has a strong drive for something different, and the performers and director are careful to show us their uniqueness, as well as their similarities.

Williams also guides Anthony Avery into a finely crafted interpretation of the small role of an ex-boyfriend. Avery has one beautifully nuanced scene in which he expertly shows us the transitions between his feeling awkward at seeing his ex, gradually relaxing, and then becoming sexually aggressive. It’s a quiet piece of acting full of tiny shifts of thought that demonstrate Avery’s ability to create a full-blown character.

Anthony Farmer renders a believable lawyer friend, whose down-home naivete and wholesomeness feels genuine.

Rick Bindhamer’s kitchen set, while obviously budget-challenged and built for touring, is fun to look at and gives off the right vibes. You sense this is a place where women might sit around all day on lazy summer afternoons and drink lemonade.

Of course, you have to take into consideration that this is a community theater production. But within that context, “Crimes of the Heart” is a triumph. This is a script that so easily could have been mangled and made silly. By respecting the truths of the characters, Williams and cast have realized the heart of a poignant play.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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