CRIMES OF THE HEART
Directed by Carol M. Rice
Crimes of the Heart won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 1981 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play before playwright Beth Henley hit the milestone 30th birthday that Lenny MaGrath (Savannah Lloyd) suffers through with help and hindrance from her sisters, Meg (Rachel Jay) and Babe (Katherine Macune). Set in small-town Mississippi, Crimes of the Heart has a Southern Gothic flavor but at its core it focuses on relationships making its appeal universal and timeless.
Director Carol M. Rice, who also designed the set, has guided the cast through the dark and sometimes absurd comic moments to the realities of these flawed but very human characters. Lloyd’s expressive face is a rolling picture of angst, frustration, exhaustion, exhilaration and joy. Jay shares just enough flickers of Meg’s wounds under her narcissistic façade to make her likeable. Macune’s Babe is an innocent child walking through an ugly adult reality. The three sisters are at their best when they join together, as they do in pushing back against their cousin and neighbor, Chick Boyle (Janae Hatchett). Clearly written by Henley as the antagonist to the Magrath girls, Hatchett’s Boyle is easy to hate. Her judgy, bossy attitude makes her banishment inevitable and so much fun.
David Kolis plays Doc Porter, the old boyfriend Meg scandalously left behind. Kolis gives us only the tiniest glances of Doc’s remaining scars. Jed Carr plays Barnette Lloyd, the defense lawyer who steps up to rescue Babe, carrying his own baggage.
Some of the most important characters in this play are never seen or heard by the audience, except in the words of the onstage characters. These actors paint such vivid pictures of their mother, grandparents, Babe’s estranged husband, and his sister that the audience feels they know them. The relationship dynamics offstage have almost as much impact as what happens onstage.
A talented array of designers adds to the depth of this production. Heather Lynn York’s costumes are totally on point. Meg (Jay) rocks velveteen paisley pants. Babe (Macune) is made even more childish in baby doll pajamas. Lenny (Lloyd) moves from one frumpy outfit and apron to another. Lighting Design is by Kenneth Hall, who also runs the light & sound board. Sound Designer is Jason Rice. Katy Hill serves as Props Manager. The amazing thick chocolate birthday cake that arrives a day late for Lenny is the work of Kim Wickware of Buttercream Duo.
Rice professes her love for this script in the director’s note in the program, and tracks her personal history with Crimes of the Heart, including appearing as Meg in college and directing productions three times prior to this Garland Civic offering. This reviewer also professes love for the script, having played Chick many years ago in Coppell under the direction of the late Wheelice “Pete” Wilson. Since then I have sought out productions of Crimes of the Heart for the opportunity to revisit Hazelhurst, Mississippi and the Magrath girls.
Seldom have I enjoyed a visit to Hazelhurst as much as this one. Fortunately I have time to squeeze in another trip. Crimes of the Heart continues each Friday & Saturday evening at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 through September 24th. Garland Civic Theatre performances are held in the Granville Arts Center, 300 N. Fifth Street, Garland, Texas. Tickets are available through garlandcivic.org.
Experience Live Theater!
Running Time: 2 ½ hours including 15 minute intermission
Sensory Friendly Performance: Yes
Production Sound Level: Comfortable Sound Level
Noises or Visuals to Prepare for: N/A