A Review of Crimes of the Heart — a Magnolia Arts Center Production
● By Kathryn
Magnolia Arts Center presents their first summer production – Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley
Magnolia Arts Center has brought this 1981 Pulitzer and Tony winner to Greenville in a solid production that would make Beth Henley proud! Crimes of the Heart traces three Mississippi sisters during one especially bad day in their lives and although wounded, brings forth with it's great narrative and Southern wit we know so well, this amazing classic.
The production opens and closes as the front yard gate. We first see a spinster like woman trying to put birthday candles into cookies, and then at the play's end, that same woman laughing together in unison with the sisters we've met and come to love, showing her in a blazing glory of candles upon the birthday cake she had finally received for her celebration. And so has this day and play been brought to an end, along with so many roads they had traveled down, both apart and together, helping each other work their lives out.
Local Greenville talent has brought this Southern wonder to the stage with a salute to the strength of southern women and the ability to carry on, move forward and strive for something...anything, even if it's blowing air through an instrument you've never been taught to play. It's about family, strength and compassion. It's about, best of all, the talent we have here in Greenville to bring this incredible work to life. Do you notice it seems to run a little long....maybe, but you're too wrapped up in the intimacy of the sister's lives and those close to them, that you cannot tell where the stage ends and you, the audience begins. You are inhaling the magic of the story and the stage, and you are at one with it all.
The three sisters and cousin were cast well, to say the least. The shy, unconfident Lenny (Erin Hildebrandt), hanging on to her cookie candle cake and an old box of chocolates as the only birthday gift to be offered to her. The gift barer, a most uncharitable and social climbing cousin, Chick (Sarah Ritchy) who was the epitome of the self-centered antagonist. Babe (Amber Spencer), Lenny's sister who shot her rich, politician husband because "I didn't like his looks" was almost child like in her ethereal performance of this broken sister. Then, the last sister, Meg who was a wonderful balance to Babe, brought the stark realism inside the home. The South's bad girl Meg (Stephanie Morell) who does this so well (one wonders if MAC is picking the plays for her) to characterize that most fun of Southern ladies...the fallen one without any visual remorse for what she does. Lenny's coping with loosing the Great Granddaddy, she's been taking care of as he's in the hospital and most likely not to return. Babe's coping with coming to terms with who she really is and what she really wants and it's not easy as Amber shows us so well. The truth is what may kill her and she knows this. Meg also knows the truth but also the lie and has the only grasp of the world outside their town. However, we're led to believe through her Hurricane trist that she's always had that ability. These sisters are three women in trauma and on this one day, their trauma can and will be worked out to a point, because on this one day, they come together as family and because on this one day, we know that family coming together can make the immpossible happen with their support.
Men? One can't have a Southern dark comedy without men! So we had two of them and they were fabulous. Both new to MAC, Allen Andrews played Doc Porter, long time love and refuse of the beguiling Meg, and Clinton Long as Barnette Llloy, the Ole Miss Graduate who takes on Babe's cause and case for his own infatuated and vindictive reasons. Their talent brought the play along with skill and sensitivity.
And the actors not seen, the mother who hung herself with her cat when the girls were young and Great Granddaddy. All of these characters weave a story that might not have all the answers when it's over, but, notably, either does life.
Going out on a limb here, I would venture to say that the acting of this fabulous dark comedy was an ensemble effort bringing out the best of each and every actor on that stage. They fit together like a hand in glove. They brought out the best in each other and their performances were all equally powerful and reached the zenith of what was needed for each individual person in this story.
The director, Thomas Weaver, Jr. must have utilized large brush strokes to boldly allow the women their stories in a loose framework instead of what would have been tightly clenched tales of woe. The set design, by Richard Croskery, was flawless, and one could imagine the perfection of that time in our past and how it was more than a background for the action, but part of it, as well. I could almost see the wind blow through the window shades. Producer Andrea Croskery once again delivers on a production that challenges us as well as entertains us. It's not always about singing and dancing. Sometimes, it's about breathing in and breathing out.
Don't miss your chance to enter a world which could have collapsed but instead held together firmly as MAC continues to perform this award-winning play with what should be an award-winning cast Sunday, June 10 at 2pm, Thursday, June 14th through Saturday, June 16th at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. For more information call 888-MAC-EVNT or visit https://www.ticketturtle.com/index.php?ticketing=mac .
The Magnolia Arts Center was founded in June 2005 with a mission to provide the members of the greater Greenville area with the opportunity to express their creativity and participate in the arts, attend quality cultural events, and gather together to build community. The organization wants to reflect the diversity and richness of this area, and to present a multitude of artistic experiences to the region. Learn more at http://www.magnoliaartscenter.com .
Article by Ilene Cox