Vanessa McCagg as Meg, (on left) Rebecca Lozinski as Becky (Babe), and Alicia Maedel as Lenny, rehearse a scene from Crimes of the Heart. (Contributed photo).

CAT presents Crimes of the Heart, a prescient tale of three southern sisters

The black comedy starts on Oct. 26 in Red Deer

The #MeToo movement, a focus on mental health, and the public scrutiny of private lives were all written into Central Alberta Theatre’s first dinner theatre play of the season.

Despite topical, 21st century themes, the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play Crimes of the Heart, was actually conceived in the mid-1970s.

The dark comedy by U.S. playwright Beth Henley — which opens on Oct. 26 at the Black Knight Inn —still has a prescient plot could have been pulled from today’s headlines, said CAT director Craig Scott.

The action begins just after Babe, the youngest Magrath sister, shoots her abusive husband. This brings her two siblings running back to their hometown of Hazelhurst Mississippi to offer their not-always-helpful support.

Since Babe’s injured spouse is a senator, the incident also brings the media rushing to their doorstep. Scott believes this precipitates the invasive age of social media, where nothing is private if posted on Facebook or Twitter.

As Babe fears being sent to a mental institution, her sisters reminisce about their troubled past, including their mother’s suicide.

The mental health theme is close to Scott’s heart since his 21-year-old son takes medication for schizophrenia and blogs about his experiences. This kind of openness about mental health problems has only been happening for the past few years, and Scott is pleased to present a play that will serve up a few more talking points.

But lest anyone think they’re in for a sobering evening, Scott stresses there are a lot of laughs in the play — conveyed by the dysfunctional Magrath sisters. (The roles were memorably played in the 1980s movie by Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek.)

Craig feels “fortunate” to have a strong cast that is pushing to create authentic emotions on stage: Alicia Maedel is clueless Lenny, Vanessa McCagg is Meg, the sister who escaped to Hollywood, and Rebecca Lozinski is the luck-less Becky (Babe).

He hopes audience members enjoy the odd-ball, comedic family dynamics.

But Scott also hopes this play will help people stretch their understanding. “I hope it leads them to question life… We shouldn’t assume we know what everyone is going through.” The ones who outwardly look fine are often the ones silently hurting, he added.

The show runs to Nov. 10. Tickets are from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.

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