A restoration of Beth Henley’s 1978 play “Crimes of the Heart” showcased TheaterCNU this weekend. The turnout was astonishing and the crowd was smitten.
Though at first, the play did not receive much attention, it eventually was named co-winner of the Great American Play Contest at the Actors Theatre of Louisville and performed just a year later in 1979 at the company’s annual festival of American plays.
The play gained mass audience attention and was selected by several regional theaters for their 1979-80 season. Shortly after, the Broadway production directed by Melvin Bernhardt opened on Nov. 4, 1981 at the John Golden Theatre. Here the play ran a total of 535 performances, which is more than it ever had before.
Mia Dillon, Mary Beth Hurt, Lizbeth MacKay, Raymond Baker, Sharon Ullrick and Peter MacNicol all made up the opening cast. The play was later nominated for the Lucille Lortel Award for best Revival of the season. “Crimes of the Heart” won nearly 10 awards in a two-year time span.
The theater professors here at Christopher Newport University gave a brilliant restoration of “Crimes of the Heart” this weekend. The cast was led by senior Leah Kelley who plays Lenny Magrath, sophomore Tori Clodfelter as Meg Magrath, junior Lisa Slover as Babe Magrath, freshman Caitlin Caplinger as Chick, junior Alec Rodriguez as Doc, and finally junior Brendan Cobb as Barenett Lloyd.
This play takes place at Old Grandaddy’s house, in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. After the Magrath sisters’ grandfather became ill, Lenny Magrath moves into his remote home to look after him. The Magrath sister’s are reunited here when Babe, the youngest sister, deliberately murders her abusive husband.
Babe is witty and bubbly and seems to fall in and out of love easily. She does not seem affected by what she has done, nor does she seem phased by the possibility of jail staring her in the eyes.
Meanwhile, Lenny and Meg Magrath are dealing with problems of their own. Lenny is more uptight and disciplined than the other two sisters. She matured faster than the rest of the girls, partly because she took on the role of the sole caregiver to Old Grandaddy.
The other sisters think she resembles their grandmother too much. Lenny fell in love once but gave it up, and now lives a regretful and lonely life because of that decision.
The middle Magrath sister Meg is a struggling singer in Hollywood. She lies about her success in order to save Old Grandaddy the disappointment. She has always been more wild than the other two sisters and for the most part gets what she wants; however she hurts a lot of people in the process.
Meg is afraid of being seen as weak; therefore she does not really care about others’ feelings and has never really let herself fall in love. These dysfunctional sisters each face the consequences and repercussions of their own “crimes of the heart” in this intense, drama-filled, romantic comedy.
Do not miss out on seeing this remarkable masterpiece. Be sure to catch one of the remaining show times on either Nov. 16 or 17 at 8 p.m. or November 18 at 2 p.m