Saturday, April 29, 2023



Written By Beth Henley

Directed by Karen Vickery

Canberra REP production

Canberra REP Theatre, Acton to 13 May


Reviewed by Len Power 28 April 2023


Having a stroke is no laughing matter, but in Beth Henley’s play, ‘Crimes Of The Heart’, one of the funniest and most effective scenes has three sisters laughing uncontrollably because they have just been told their old Granddaddy has had another stroke and might die.

Everyone is together because one of them, Babe, has just shot and injured her husband.  Meg, a failed singer, has returned from Hollywood, California to support Babe, and Lenny admits to being lonely and afraid, having stayed home looking after Granddaddy, who is now in hospital.

As the play progresses, the sisters remember old rivalries and past resentments in a family with more than their share of past troubles.  Significantly, some time ago, their mother had mysteriously killed her cat and then herself.

Beth Henley’s tragicomedy won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and had a good run on Broadway.  Set in the small city of Hazlehurst, Mississippi in 1974, it’s a family character study focussed on the three sisters.

On an attractively detailed living room and kitchen setting by Michael Sparks, Karen Vickery, the director, has obtained good performances from her entire cast.

Carmen King, plays Lenny, the sister who stayed in the family home.  King gives a strong performance with considerable depth as the no-nonsense sister who seems capable on the surface but is fearfully facing loneliness.

Ella Buckley as Babe, who has shot her husband, gives a very real study of a woman unable to understand the seriousness of the predicament she has found herself in.

Meaghan Stewart is their sister, Meg, the failed singer, who is loud and annoyingly self-centred.  Stewart is quite effective in her quieter moments when she reveals her character’s vulnerabilities but the loudness of her character becomes wearing.  More light and shade is needed for her performance of this aspect of her character.

The rest of the cast in smaller roles do very well with nicely judged performances of some depth.

The cast did their best with the difficult southern American accents but they were a bit uneven at times.

Karen Vickery has given this long show a good pace and clear character definition.  It’s a challenging show to stage and get the black comedy levels right.  This production does achieve that and it’s continually entertaining.


Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at