directed by T.J. Walsh

Crowd-pleaser has brains and heart
Dallas Morning News
by Manuel Mendoza

Crimes of the Heart is an evergreen. WIth its just-right blend of dramatic tension, humor and poignancy, Beth Henley's Pulitzer-Prize-winning play is a showcase for young actresses. Jenae M. Yerger, Trisha Miller and Dana Schultes -- all making their Circle Theatre debuts under the crisp direction of T.J. Walsh -- show why the SMU-trained Ms. Henley's 1979 play is so audience-friendly. Their demonstrative Magrath sisters, post-feminist takeoffs on the Southern belle, are impossible to resist.

Ms. Yerger, in the most nuanced part, does wonders with youngest sibling Babe Botrelle, who's been arrested for shooting her prominent lawyer-politician husband when the action opens. For two hours, she peels back Babe's hidden layers of strength and will, creating a complete human being from what initially looks like a ditz. With Babe in trouble, middle sister Meg (Ms. Schultes) rushes home from Los Angeles, where she's been struggling to launch a singing career. The comely popular girl for whom everything always came easy, she pays a price for daring to leave the familiar bosom of Hazlehurst, Mississippi. They come together at their sick grandfather's house, where lonely heart Lenny Magrath (Ms. Miller) is celebrating her 30th birthday alone. The drama is immediately leavened as Lenny repeatedly rams a candle into a cookie so she can make a wish.

Set in 1974, Ms. Henley, a Mississippi native, knows how to put words in these Southern women's mouths. Her dialogue is convincingly naturalistic, and director Mr. Walsh and his actresses make the most of the writer's gift for close observation. For long stretches, you can forget you're watching a play because the exchanges seems so real. Crimes is about how the Magraths come to terms with their baggage and their conflicts during Babe's hour of need. It's a crowd-pleaser, certainly, but one with brains as well as heart.

Babe's lawyer and potential love interest (David Fluitt) is a winning character in his own right, a combination of goofy smarts and boyish naivete. Ms. Schultes, in the least showy role, has a crackling scene with Mr. Fluitt when he first arrives to take the case. As we get to know Meg, Ms. Shultes bring her melancholy to the fore. And th gangly Ms. Miller, too attractive to be playing the old maid, pulls it off with a wide-eyed take on the possibilities of overcoming obstacles, even Lenny's shrunken ovary.