Students take lead in Theatre production of 'Criminal Hearts,' starting Feb. 23

UW-Green Bay Theatre, Criminal HeartsAn unlikely and comic bond between burglar and victim will take center stage beginning Feb. 23, when UW-Green Bay Theatre presents “Criminal Hearts,” a work by the mysterious playwright Jane Martin.

“I think it’s a great play. I think it’s a really wonderful play about friendship,” said UW-Green Bay Prof. John Mariano, the show’s director. “It’s a play about the unlikeliest friendship you can imagine, between a very well-to-do upper class young woman, who’s recently been left by her husband, and another woman who breaks in to burgle her apartment. And there’s nothing left there to steal because he’s taken everything — and they become friends.”

The play from Martin, whose true identity has been widely debated but remains unverified, relies upon a small cast and Spartan scenery to tell the tale of burglar Bo and her victim, the unhinged Ata Windust. Paralyzed by her circumstances, Ata does nothing but eat pizza, drink Dr. Pepper and sharpen pencils in her empty apartment — all day, every day.

“ I love playing Ata because it’s so different from anything I’ve ever played before,” said UW-Green Bay senior Katie Sawyer. “You can go from crying to screaming to being excited to pointing a gun — to all these different emotions in one scene. And that just doesn’t happen in a lot of shows. So it’s kind of fun to step outside the box and try something different with her.”

UW-Green Bay Theatre rarely has the chance to present a production with such a small cast. But with the April production of “Cabaret” placing demands on Theatre and Music alike, the timing is right. Stars of the show Katie Sawyer and Shelbi Cox, who are roommates offstage, have enjoyed cultivating their relationship as they prepare for the show.

“What I love and what is difficult about this character is she really does go through a very strong evolution,” said Cox, also a senior. “Both my character, Bo, and Katie’s character, Ata, are on stage pretty much throughout the entire show, and the story is incredibly character-driven. It really is about this relationship between these two women.”

A funny play with a good bit of drama thrown in, “Criminal Hearts” is a production that, for the most part, has a broad appeal, say director and cast.

“The only really caveat is that there’s adult language — the burglar character swears a lot,” Mariano said. “So if that is going to bother people, this wouldn’t be the play for them. Other than that, I think it’s just a really great comedy. Anybody who would like to come and see a really great comedy, this would be it.”