Thirty years ago, young playwright Beth Henley won the Pulitzer Prize for her second play, "Crimes of the Heart." She followed it with another of her trademark farcical comedies set in the deep South, "The Miss Firecracker Contest."
The characters in "Crimes" often were pathetic, but they shared a deeply felt humanity. In "Firecracker," the current Huntington Beach Playhouse production, their outrageousness is magnified at the expense of a true connection.
Henley created a collection of Southern-fried misfits for "Firecracker" that make the denizens of "Crimes" look like Rhodes scholars. Unlike the tight ensemble of the prize winner, these folks are plowing full-steam in varying directions, and the chances of any of them achieving satisfaction are remote.
The goofiness centers on the leading character, Carnelle, the town tart hoping to boost her local image by winning the beauty/talent contest so she can leave for greener pastures on a high note. As the play opens, she's rehearsing her routine, and we can pretty much guess at her chances for success.