Henley’s tragicomedy won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and wasfollowed by a film adaptation starring Sissy Spacek that nabbed three Oscarnominations.
The Magrath sisters have gathered at their grandfather’shome in Hazelhurst, Mississippi in support of sister Babe (Margaret Grace Hee)who’s out on bail after shooting her husband in the stomach. Lenny (JensenPower) has been taking care of Grandpa after sister Meg (ChandlerParrott-Thomas) took off to Southern California in pursuit of a singing career.
Things haven’t turned out so well for any of them. Lenny’sgiven up hope of ever finding love because of a shrunken ovary. Meg, who left abroken heart in town, is back after suffering a breakdown and spending the lastyear working for a pet food company. Babe is going to find herself on trialsoon for the attempted murder of her ne’er-do-well husband. Current problemsand past grievances will test the bonds of sisterhood.
Full of the absurd and grotesque for which the style of“southern Gothic” is known, Henley’s play has six great character roles foractors, and director Pat Nims has filled those roles well. Along with the threeaforementioned sisters, there’s Chick Boyle (Caitlin Strom-Martin), aneighboring cousin with a perpetually upturned nose; Doc Porter (MichelHarris), the man Meg left behind; and Barnett Lloyd (Jeremy Judge), thewet-behind-the-ears defense attorney who has taken Babe’s case for some“personal” reasons.
The cast keep their performances nicely modulated, with noone succumbing to the urge to go full “southern” and chew the scenery which, bythe way, has been provided via a finely detailed set by Ron Krempetz. The action is relegated to the kitchen of themodest Mississippi home with a short staircase leading to the rest of the houseand front and back entry/exit ways. Subtle lighting and sound cues really enhancethe environment.
Henley mines the dark material (suicide, infidelity,attempted murder, etc.) for a lot of humor, and none of it seems cheap. Theability for these women to carry on despite the harshness of their lives andstill have hope for better times to come is one of this show’s appeals.Audiences looking for a little support in their lives might learn a little somethingfrom the Magrath sisters.
‘Crimes of the Heart’’ runs Friday through Sunday through August11 at the Barn Theatre in the Marin Art and Garden Center in Ross. Thursdaythrough Saturday evening performances are at 8pm; the Sunday matinee is at 2pm.
For more information go to rossvalleyplayers.com.