Jameson Filston, Campus Carrier Arts & Living Editor
Berry College Theatre Department opened their first show in the new Blackstone Theatre last Thursday and took advantage of a completely different space.
Blackstone Theatre was finished just this summer, and “Crimes of the Heart” will run in the theatre through October 8.
When I walked into the theatre, I was blown away by not only the set, but the house as well. The theater is not excessively large, but it was much more than enough to house the opening Thursday crowd and lent a cozy feel. The seating consists of two levels, the balcony and the main floor. The stage was level with the floor on the front row, which connected the scene to the audience and worked really well in the smaller space.
However, the set was what really drew the eye. Very little suspension of disbelief was required to picture a kitchen, because it looked as though someone had transplanted a large kitchen in the front of the theatre. The set was very homey and had great attention to detail.
“Crimes of the Heart” is a play centered around three sisters. Forced back together by the youngest sister Babe’s attempt to kill her husband as well as the declining health of their grandfather, the sisters must confront their past struggles with love and family.
All the action takes place in the kitchen of their grandfather’s house, with Lenny (the oldest), Meg and Babe in feature roles. They are joined by several supporting characters who bring humor, romance and drama to the kitchen table.
What impressed me most about the acting in this production was the skill the actors showed in conveying emotion. The play features emotions from horror to joy and includes copious amounts of humor. I found myself and the audience around me laughing when they wanted us to laugh and cringing or crying when the actors conveyed a sad or awkward scene. There were some moments where they paused in a strange place, had a stiff interaction or did something to pull me out of a scene, but this is a college production – would not expect a perfect performance even on Broadway.
Sophomore Lilly Gonzalez, who played Lenny, was a great fit for the role. Not only did her maternal air and responsible behavior help tie the two other chaotic sisters together, but also allowed for strong emotion when this more reserved character showed grief or happiness.
I personally appreciated how freshman Kendall Cano, who played Meg, was able to execute her sassy behavior at the beginning of the play very well, but was also able to change her demeanor as her character grew.
To me, the most intriguing character was Babe, played by freshman Madison VandenOever, She did a great job portraying the dreamy and innocent character. She brought a lot of comedic relief through her interpretation of the character However, I would have loved to see her dial back those qualities a little. This could have made her interaction more natural with freshman JW Perry, who played Barnette Lloyd. I loved the character, but I think that she missed the potential to steal the show.
The comedic relief was carried out in large part by sophomore Hannah Avery, who played Chick. Her exaggerated accent, silly lines and comedic drama were executed very well and never failed to crack me up. She was the most dynamic person on stage, but no one person stood above the rest.
Junior Tyler Hooper, who played Doc Porter, and Perry also added a lot though their supporting characters. However, neither of these characters seemed confident in their roles, which was a shame, as they did wonderfully otherwise. This especially surprised me with Hooper, because I have seen him show great confidence in past performances. Despite some trivial flaws, the show had a very balanced cast in my view and told a great story in an engaging way.
One of the things I was most curious about before attending the show was how BCTC would use the new space. The elaborate and detailed set helped display the area, but the scenes were augmented by effective use of light and sound.
The lights stayed constant through the first act in a kind of homey and warm setting, but changed in the second act to reflect the time of day, as the second act takes place at night. There was a drop upstage that changed colors with the time of day to depict evening, night and morning. This was a nice touch that was visually pleasing and added to the set.
Not much sound was used in the show. The most noticble sound affect was that the first scene used soft music that faded out at the end, and the final scene had music that faded in. I would have liked to have each act end and begin with music simply because I liked the effect, and it would have added a more cohesive effect to the sound design.
Overall, the play was a great success. The actors showed great talent and conveyed the story very well. The set design was phenomenal, and the new theatre is a pleasant venue. Because of these factors and more, I believe that Berry College Theatre Department’s “Crimes of the Heart” is well worth the price of admission. That cost is $5 for students, $7 for seniors and $10 for adults. The play will show Oct. 5 – 7 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 8 at 2 p.m.