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‘Crimes of the Heart’ steals the show

The 1974 play explores family issues of love and hurt.

Robin Long, Megan Gainey and Jennifer Canon as Meg, Babe and Lenny Magrath sharing a hug on stage.

Steven Georges

Robin Long, Megan Gainey and Jennifer Canon as Meg, Babe and Lenny Magrath sharing a hug on stage.

Samantha Diaz, Arts and Life Editor

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The Pulitzer Prize For Drama winning play, “Crimes of the Heart,” tells the story of three sisters in Mississippi dealing with heartache, loss and all the family drama you can pack in a two-hour play.

Directed by Luke Yankee and written by playwright Beth Henley, “Crimes of the Heart” is set in 1974 in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Jennifer Canon plays 30-year-old Lenny Magrath, an unmarried woman with dwindling prospects. Her days are taken up with caring for “granddaddy,” who helped raise her and her two sisters. She focuses solely on her grandfather’s health, leaving no room for her own life, let alone for romance.

The audience gets a peek into the kind of person that Lenny is with the opening scene in which she forges herself a makeshift birthday cookie and sings to herself, knowing that her family had forgotten her birthday yet another year.

Meg Magrath (Robin Long) is the typical middle child, rebellious and stirring up trouble. The whole town is whispering and spreading rumors about Meg, awaiting her return from Hollywood where she ran off to pursue her singing career. Her arrival shakes up things for both the town and the play.

She’s wild and carefree, nothing like her older sister and they clash accordingly. Meg lives for herself and does only what makes her happy. She is nothing like her sister. Lenny pleads with Meg numerous times to not visit Doc Porter (James Louis Wagner), a man whose heart she broke right before leaving town.

Babe Magrath (Megan Gainey), young and beautiful, is in the most trouble of the three sisters. The audience meets Babe as she’s being bailed out of jail for shooting her husband, claiming it’s because she “didn’t like his looks.” She refuses to talk about what happened or why, and has accepted her fate of going to prison. Her character goes from bubbly and cheerful to intense and dramatic in a matter of seconds. Babe only wants to enjoy the company of her sisters with the time she has left, but is not afraid to speak her mind when she needs to.

The sisters’ personalities clash relentlessly as they struggle to get along after being apart for years. The tension is only heightened by their gossiping cousin, Chick, who brings up old family issues and creates unnecessary drama for the group. Chick makes no effort to hide how she views the sisters and their family and takes advantage of their vulnerability any chance she gets.

At first scenes are filled with Meg and Babe gossiping about Lenny, then Lenny and Babe gossiping about Meg. It all seems like meaningless family drama until the audience sees the sisters defend one another and reminisce over their mother who had killed herself, or their granddaddy who had raised them.

The characters become loveable and more personal as the play continues, with more information about the family, relationships and drama revealed in every scene. It’s easy to see the love the sisters have for one another despite their fundamental differences, once they start going through hardships with each other.

It’s easy to get emotionally invested with the characters and their lives. I got emotional whiplash as one scene had me tearing up for the sisters and their love for one another, the next had me fearing for one sister’s life, while the next had me laughing along with the rest of the audience.

Henley does a great job of making the character’s relationships believable. Although they are sisters and they fight, when Babe begins fearing for her future, her older sister Meg finds her a promising lawyer. When Lenny gets emotional about never having been in a relationship, Meg and Babe force her to call up a man who is interested in her. Just like any dysfunctional family, they bicker relentlessly but are there for each other when it counts.

The play carries the theme throughout its entirety of leaning on family when things get hard. The sisters try and fail to deal with their problems on their own and slowly realize that they need each other. After Babe has a meltdown from all the stress of the trial, Meg tells her, “We’ve just got to learn to get through these bad days.”

“Crimes of the Heart” will be playing at the International City Theater now through June 25, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $47 for Thursday and Friday and $49 for Saturday and Sunday showings.

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