August 3, 2002


Crimes of the Heart

reviewed by
Lynn Trenning






















For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

(special to the Charlotte Observer)

Crimes of the Heart, by Beth Henley, is an exploratory comedy of the heart, imbued with poignancy and black humor. Performed by The Davidson Community Players, a cozy country kitchen and warm southern accents can’t mask the shadows that dance around the Magrath sisters of Hazlehurst, Mississippi.

The play won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1981 with a charming and insightful script, and four excellent female roles that were performed too cautiously by The Davidson Community Players. I sensed a reluctance to slip into southern stereotype, that resulted in a lack of grit and gumption.

It is Lenny McGrath’s 30th birthday and her prospects for a good time are grim. Her youngest sister Babe has just been arrested for shooting her own husband because “she didn’t like his looks.” Her self-absorbed middle sister Meg has returned from Hollywood to be more of a nuisance than a help. Her granddaddy, whose house she lives in, is in the hospital dying. And her annoying cousin Chick can’t stop barging in on the pretense of socializing, with the intent to insult.

The blond, strawberry blond, and dark brunette sisters differ in more ways than their hair color. Meg, played by Katie Pendergrast, seems uncertain whether to revel in the role of protector toward her youngest sister, or cheerleader toward her eldest. Babe, played by Beth Gardner, perfects the wide-eyed catatonic look of a woman who is either truly vapid, or is a gifted cover-up artist. Lori Krimminger plays Lenny, aptly clothed in gray and beige, whose independence and joy have been suffocated by a controlling grandfather.

At its best, Crimes of the Heart is a regional play with universal themes. “Doc married a Yankee. His kids must be half Yankee,” muses the stunned Meg, upon finding her abandoned lover, Doc Porter, has moved beyond her. Doc Porter is played by a grinning Peter Jacobus, who seems to be busting to yell, “Look mom, I’m on stage!” every time that he is.

Ronnie Higdon’s fantastic set captures the essence of a 1940's farmhouse kitchen. The country blue gingham wallpaper, white lace curtains and pie rack made me wish for the smell of peach cobbler, rather than Meg’s Marlboros. Conversely, Higdon’s placement of a blinding blue backyard security light during Act 2 almost chased me from my seat.

Damaged by a jointly experienced childhood trauma, the sisters have been floundering independently for years. But crimes beg forgiveness, and the audience is left with a wish and a hope that their salvation is in each other.

Lynn Trenning, August 3, 2002

[ArtSavant link]
© 2000 - 2001 ArtSavant - enquiries to