Sarah Quintiliani, Emma Dunlop, and Sarah Elizabeth Taylor in "Crimes of the Heart" Source: Courtesy of Sandy Smith

Review: 'Crimes of the Heart' Succeeds at a Tricky Mix

Joe Siegel READ TIME: 3 MIN.

Beth Henley's "Crimes of the Heart" portrays the tragedies which can haunt families for generations.

The three Magrath sisters, Lenny, Meg, and Babe are reunited at the family homestead in small-town Mississippi following the hospitalization of their grandfather. The attention to detail by set designers John Braica and Bob Gerold completely immerses the audience into this countrified world of the deep South. The house looks lived in – a haven for some, a prison for others.

It is Lenny's 30th birthday but she is in no mood to celebrate. Her life is on a long road to nowhere and no one seems to notice.

Middle sister Meg has returned from California, where she pursued a singing career. Meg chain smokes and drinks heavily and has a "loose" reputation, according to her vivacious cousin Chick (Kathleen Seagriff-Chapman).

And the youngest Magrath, Babe, has been behind bars after shooting her abusive husband in the stomach. However, Babe's well-meaning lawyer Barnette (Kevin Thibault) may be able to win her freedom. Long-simmering resentments boil over, and shocking secrets are revealed that threaten to tear the sisters apart. Will they succumb to misery and despair, or will they find unity in the midst of chaos?

Kathleen Seagriff-Chapman and Sarah Elizabeth Taylor
Source: Courtesy of Sandy Smith

Strong performances from Sarah Quintiliani ("The Country House") as Lenny, Sarah Elizabeth Taylor as Meg, and Emma Dunlop as Babe make this a riveting drama. The never-married Lenny is a sharp contrast with her more sexually experienced siblings. Being the oldest, she carries a heavy debt of responsibility.

Meg is a brash free spirit who indulges her every whim and vice. Beneath the surface, she is dealing with the aftermath of her mother's suicide. In an effort at self-redemption, Meg reconciles with the man she abandoned long ago, Doc (newcomer Ben Davis), now married with children but not immune to rekindling an old romance.

Sarah Quintiliani and Seagriff-Chapman
Source: Courtesy of Sandy Smith

"Crimes of The Heart" does have some funny moments based on the personality quirks of these women. Chick changes her panty hose while sitting at the kitchen table. Meg takes bites out of the chocolates she gave Lenny for her birthday. Babe throws a telephone receiver into the refrigerator. (That's one unique way of avoiding crank calls.)

Before the story is over, the Magraths have all learned something about themselves as well as each other. They deal with their own faults and grow from the experience.

Director Karen Besson ("Bedroom Farce") has done magnificent work with the actresses. Their characterizations are richly textured. "Crimes of the Heart" won a 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was adapted for a 1986 motion picture starring Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, and Sissy Spacek.

The mix of pathos and dark humor can be a tricky thing to pull off, but the cast and crew of this production have succeeded.

"Crimes of the Heart" runs through June 2 at The Arctic Playhouse,1249 Main Street, West Warwick, RI. For tickets, call 401-573-3443, or visit The Arctic Playhouse

by Joe Siegel

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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