Crimes of the Heart

Crimes of the Heart




The description of a theater event as “good” usually comes off as a safe way for being noncommittal about a piece of work. However, there are instances where one would describe a theater event as nice or good or even awesome and mean it. This is the case for the play “Crimes of the Heart” which I attended at a local theater recently. Indeed, this comes as one of the best descriptions for the production, as well as the play.

The play revolves around the Magrath sisters namely Lenny, Meg and Babe, who have reunited at the family home located in Mississippi. This is after Babe shoots her abusive husband. Lenny can be characterized as a wallflower who laments her shriveled ovary, while the egocentric Meg has had her Hollywood career abruptly terminated after she had a nervous breakdown. Babe, on the other hand, is the impulsive and unruly sister who provides her sisters with shocking details pertaining to her affair with a black boy in his teenage years. The play involves the bubbling of past resentments to the surface as the three sisters are forced to deal, not only with their assorted relatives or even the previous relationships, but also the latest incident where Babe has murdered her abusive husband, which comes as a disruption to their dysfunctional lives.

Of course, this is not a stable family as each of them is running from something or tackling a fundamental issue in her life. On the same note, they all have baggage as they are grappling with the death of their mother who took the family cat with her. The issues with which the three sisters are grappling are a recipe for a dysfunctional drama rather than a humorous comedy, if delicate direction is not inculcated. Nevertheless, the direction of the play does not focus on the negative aspects in the lives of the sisters but their relationships with each other. The play seems to incorporate an unobtrusive approach to material, which costs the play some humor although it works pretty well. On the same note, the characters had to play in an extremely natural way, which resulted in the loss of their eccentricities, with some outrageous moments taking on a somber feel rather than being quirky.

I particularly liked the Lenny character who makes the transition from being the mopey and sad sister to being a truly caring person who essentially assumes the mother role over her two sisters. Indeed, this is an extremely effective performance that inculcates stability in the play, as well as the character. However, I particularly did not like the Babe character as she was portrayed as a bored adolescent and not as a detached 24 year old woman who strives to protect or defend her sanity through becoming withdrawn from life. As much as the Babe character has the capacity to connect immensely with the two other sisters in a number of the scenes, her largely recitative delivery often makes her seem too isolated in a large part of the play. Nevertheless, one would thoroughly enjoy the depiction of Barnette, who doubles up as Babe’s determined lawyer who is having a crush on his client, thereby introducing some vitality to the play. Chick, who is a nasty control freak cousin, doubles up as properly annoying. Indeed, the entire cast plays out into a terrific play.