Crimes of the Heart

 

Written by Beth Henleybroward stage door

Directed by Michael Leeds

Broward Stage Door Theatre

Bad day for characters and perhaps audience

There is no accounting for taste. Try as I might, I cannot understand why Crimes of the Heart won both a Pulitzer Prize and a New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Perhaps criteria were different — very different — back in 1981/82

It’s not that this is a bad play — there are some genuinely humorous moments — it is just that it is not outstanding. Perhaps Crimes of the Heart was a groundbreaker in the genre of dysfunctional Southern families, although dysfunction alone — even if set in the South — ought not to be enough to garner awards.

browardvstage door

Certainly, the reunion of the three odd McGrath sisters in their rural hometown of Hazelhurst, Miss. — the sad spinster, the ditsy killer and the failed singer — fails to sustain over two hours of various groupings and bulky conversation, in spite of excellent skills of the actors.

The oldest sister, Lenny (Merdith Bartmon), is the most appealing. Overlooked on her 30th birthday, she provides a poignant opening as she lights and relights a lone candle to kindle several wishes. As the story begins, she is awaiting the return of her sexually promiscuous second sister, Meg (Faiza Cherie) who will be coming home in response to a telegram stating that youngest sister Babe (Ursula Anderman) has shot her husband in the stomach. The three are nothing if not quirky eccentrics (at times barely this side of the loony bin).

One plot line considers motivation, justification and consequences. A second deals with unrequited love, while a third examines taking control of one’s own life. Weaving these together and filling out the cast are Samuel Floyd as Babe’s lawyer, Barnette; Nicholas Wilder as Doc, Meg’s lost love, and Erin Pittleman as shrill, intrusive  cousin Chick, whose every speech is at top volume.

Unseen, but important, are mom (who committed a suicide/homicide years before when she hung herself and her cat), and the girl’s granddaddy (comatose in a nursing home).

In 1986, this play about family relationships and sister-bonding was made into a film starring Diane Keaton (as Lenny), Jessica Lang (as Meg), and Sissy Spacek (as Babe). Although nominated for a Golden Globe, the film lost to Hannah and Her Brothers.

 Somewhat recommended

Beverly Friend, Ph.D.

American Theater Critics Assn.

 Broward Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W Sample Rd Coral Springs, Fl 33065 www.stagedoortheatre.com. 954-344-7765 Tickets $38 (students $16), 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday through Feb. 13.Run time two hours and fifteen minutes (including intermission).