Apple Tree Theatre (see Resident companies). By Jane Martin. Dir. Ray Frewen. With Martie Sanders, Candace Taylor.
Penned by the pseudonymous playwright Jane Martin, Criminal Hearts is an example of that hoariest of theatrical genres, the wacky buddy comedy, but with this zany twist: The buddies are women! In one corner, you’ve got the crazy white socialite Ata (Sanders); in the other, the streetwise soul sister Bo (Taylor). The two meet when Bo, a career thief, breaks into Ata’s apartment expecting riches, but instead finds empty pizza cartons and scattered Dr. Pepper cans. Ata’s already been cleaned out by her philandering soon-to-be ex-husband. If you didn’t expect an unlikely friendship to spring up between these two women, then let me introduce you to a few of my friends: Oscar and Felix, Mel and Danny, Chris and Jackie.
Yeah, so the plot is clichéd and far from credible. Still, if you’re one of those who kinda, sorta wished that Thelma and Louise would get away, then you’ll understand the appeal of this veritable feminist wish-fulfillment sitcom. Frankly, it’s fun watching a yuppie-scum lawyer get dressed down, as Sanders so dazzlingly does near the end of Act 2. It’s nice to imagine a sunny future of criminal self-empowerment for the chronically neurotic Ata.
Frewen’s cast makes the most of these moments, offering characters in broad strokes and tics—an approach that fits well with the play’s sitcomish plot and comically overwrought dialogue. And yet, even in a light, tight production like Frewen’s, the play’s flaws still show. After Ata’s wonderfully detailed catalog of her ex’s flaws, the play just keeps inexplicably churning, producing more “final moments” than the playwright can handle.—Kay Daly