Kirstin Merriman and Alicia Maedel are pictured here in a scene from Central Alberta Theatre’s Crimes of the Heart, currently onstaget at the Black Knight Inn. photo submitted

CAT embarks on new dinner theatre season with Crimes of the Heart

Solid performances fuel production’s exploration of family dynamics

Central Alberta Theatre continues to explore meatier material with Crimes of the Heart, this season’s dinner theatre opener now onstage at the Black Knight Inn.

Directed by CAT veteran Craig Scott and written by Beth Henley, the acclaimed play, which was also adapted for the silver screen back in 1986, runs through to Nov. 10th with dinner starting at 6 p.m.

The story follows some of the experiences of the Magrath sisters – Babe (Rebecca Lozinski), Lenny (Alicia Maedel) and Meg (Vanessa McCagg).

They’ve all come back to where they were raised – Hazlehurst, Mississippi – because Babe has gone and shot her abusive husband.

Lenny has been home all along caring for their ailing granddaddy and Meg has returned from Hollywood where she’s been trying to make her mark.

Right off the top, these three women reflect what being a family is really all about. They are committed to each other and even fiercely protective of each other, but that can switch over almost immediately to all out screaming matches where the accusations and insults are flying. But in minutes, there they are laughing, reflecting and chatting about life.

And as the story unfolds, we go deeper into their experiences which include plenty of heartache and pain, most notably the suicide of their mom when they were just girls. Each has tried to cope with this unimaginable loss in her own way, and when they are back under one roof, there is much they learn about each other’s lives. Secrets spill out, emotions run high but there is resolution to some of what’s been plaguing each of them over the years.

Scott has fashioned a powerful, well-rounded and even poignant production and it simply couldn’t have been done without his outstanding cast. Lozinski, Maedel and McCagg are stellar in each of their roles, but also as a single unit of sisters. They exude a natural and believable chemistry as siblings, from the affection to the simmering fury to the conversations about the past. Scott has selected three very capable actors for these key roles; there isn’t a moment when they aren’t quite literally pouring their hearts into every aspect of this production.

The supporting cast (Alex Rogers, Dustin Frank and Kirstin Merriman) is solid as well, particularly the always incredible Merriman who never ceases to amaze me with her versatility, charisma and ability to take on pretty much any kind of character.

Crimes of the Heart may not be what you might expect from CAT. It’s not a farce, it can’t really be called a comedy, and it deals with issues that the troupe likely wouldn’t have explored in seasons long past.

But it’s solid. From the get-go, it’s worth taking in just to see that headlining trio of actors who play the sisters let loose and burn up the stage with their full-fledged commitment to the show. No, it isn’t perfect – I found it a bit too long and the screaming matches do get under one’s skin at times, but perhaps that’s part of the point. This is theatre that is accessible but also quite stark, raw and undeniably ‘real’.

Kudos to Scott for tackling the material, and for directing them in clearly such an insightful way – there really isn’t anything left undone or unsaid by the time the story concludes.

For ticket information, head to tickets.blackknightinn.ca.

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