Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Crimes of the Heart

ICCT - When I walked into the bar area of the Ground Round last Friday night, I was immediately drawn to a group of people sitting at one of the tables. They were talking and laughing and having a good time. I knew one of them from way back when and he got in some good natured ribbing. I learned that this was the cast of the Iowa City Community Theatre's production of Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley. I joined my friends at our table, but my attention kept sliding back to that group at the other table. Their conversation moved quickly and easily and was punctuated by lots of laughter. This was a tight group, I thought. I bet they're putting together a great show.

My initial feeling was correct. The cast genuinely likes each other. Carole Martin, who plays Babe, the youngest of the three sisters, called the cast "awesome". She cited the camaraderie as for why she loved working on the show. "We get along great on and off the stage," Martin said. "I aspire to be as good as they are." Brad Quinn, who portrays Doc, notes that knowing the actors from previous work has helped them bond as a cast. "I have done several shows with Lane (who portrays Barnette) and Carole, and did a summer show with them and Robyn (who portrays Chick)." said Quinn. "So we were already very comfortable with each other."

Director Rich Riggleman agrees that the closeness of the cast has helped the show, which he describes as about "people, real people". There's the cousin who has her eye on the family property. The sister who left home to try and make her own way in the world. The daughter that got stuck taking care of the sick parent. "That was me," adds Riggleman. Even the wife who shot her abusive husband, a character who may seem a little too theatrical for real life, could have been pulled from the recent news headlines. These characters, their interactions, and their conflicts are what make Crimes of the Heart such a compelling and funny show.

No show is created without challenges. Riggleman said one of the biggest challenges was that only eight people auditioned for six roles. He had to adapt his thinking to the actors he had. He found that adapting provided some great moments. For instance, Riggleman had always pictured the character of Doc as a real "man's man". However, Riggleman says Quinn chose to underplay the character. Quinn chose that route because "it would emphasize the depths of his emotion towards Meg. This man is quiet and easy-going, but with Meg he still feels unsure and insecure and desperate to make a connection with her." Riggleman credits Quinn with an excellent choice, saying it "works beautifully".

Crimes of the Hearts is not a new show and it's one that has won many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1981. Riggleman first saw a production in 1994 when the University of Iowa's Summer Rep company produced it. He then directed a production in Denison, Iowa for a dinner theater there. He knew he wanted to do it again and with thirteen years since the last Iowa City production, the time seemed right. This is a very different production, promises Riggleman. The only thing that remains from his previous production is the blocking. The cast is different and the set, in particular, is very different. The ICCT set is much larger than the dinner theater version, opening up the action quite a bit. As anyone who is familiar with a Riggleman show knows, the set always looks great.

The cast is mostly an experienced one. Martin's been busy in the last year with roles in Cash on Delivery and a New Faces production, both at Theatre Cedar Rapids. This is her third ICCT show. McCright and Hanon were in City Circle's recent production of The Full Monty. This is Quinn's fourth ICCT show and he's also done shows with City Circle and Dreamwell.

The two newcomers to the Iowa City theatre experience are Erin Mills (Lenny) and Lara Goetsch (Meg). The cast bonding evident at the Ground Round will hopefully encourage Mills and Goetsch to check out more theater opportunities in Iowa City. Quinn agrees with that sentiment. "They are both fine actresses and we want them to come back and do shows for many years to come."

Click the link at the right for more information about the show. Tickets are on sale now!

--Matt Falduto


Anonymous said...

I just read a review of "Crimes of the Heart" in the Daily Iowan. Apparently, the show the reviewer saw was not the same show that I saw last Sunday afternoon.

I thought 95% of it was first-rate -- in particular the performances of the three sisters and, yes, kudos to the set design.

The reviewer's dwelling on "akwardness" and "drinking" and "moments of silence" suggests a misunderstanding of the drama.

Nevertheless, it's the first review of an ICCT play I've seen in my five years in IC; I suppose that is compensation of a sort.

Ed Judy

Editor said...

The DI reviews shows every once in a while, but with a student paper, the turnover is high as there are always new students coming in, so there's not a consistency. And that's not a slam - it's just the nature of a school paper.

Thanks for stopping by. We'll have some reviews of Frozen, City Circle's play, next week. Check back for that!