Courtesy Photo/ Jan Lewis
Crimes of the Heart Preformance
Some topics and issues are traditionally funny, but some issues are almost never funny.
The newest theatre production at Grand Valley State University seeks out these rarely funny issues and forces audiences to submit to hilarity. “Crimes of the Heart,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning play written by Beth Henley, opened at GVSU on Friday and continues this weekend with shows at 7:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday.
“Crimes of the Heart” is performed in the Louis Armstrong Theater on GVSU’s Allendale Campus. Tickets range from $6 to $12 and can be purchased in the Louis Armstrong Theater box office or online through Star Tickets.
The story follows the three Magrath sisters: Babe, Meg and Lenny. These adult sisters all come back together in their hometown of Hazlehurst, Miss., in the mid-seventies after Babe shoots her abusive husband. The plot revolves around the sisters relationships with each other and the outside world. Each sister has sacrificed something throughout
their lives and each tries to come to terms with that sacrifice throughout the play.
Henley’s unconventional dark comedy convinces the audience to laugh at topics and issues that most would find inappropriate.
Adultery, racism, suicide and abuse are just a few of the cringing topics that would typically
turn an audience off, but to the credit of the script and the production, rolling laughter filled the auditorium.
“Crimes of the Heart” is set in the kitchen of the home the sisters grew up in. Currently, only Lenny resides in the home, taking care of their critically sick grandfather.
The set construction of this single room was effective without being overly elaborate. A small kitchen table sat in the middle of the stage where much of the action took place. A single window was placed above the sink. This window was the only indication of time change over the day and a half of storyline.
The play opens with Lenny, played by sophomore Alyssa Simmert, as she celebrates her 30th birthday alone. She is interrupted
by her obnoxious neighbor and cousin Chick Boyle, played by Krista Scott. Chick is a crowd favorite and constantly funny.
At this point the audience discovers that Babe has shot her husband and is in jail. Babe, played by Taylor Barton, is the youngest of the sisters and the only one that is married. Her husband, the town’s most prominent
lawyer, has been severely injured by a bullet in stomach.
The third sister Meg, played by Sophie Ni, arrives in Mississippi from Hollywood where she was attempting to become a famous
singer and actress. Meg is the wild-child of the sisters and her romantic adventures result in many laughs.
Throughout the circumstances of the next 36 hours, Lenny attempts, at times unsuccessfully, to keep her family together and happy. This responsibility comes partly because of their mother’s suicide when the sisters were children.
Because “Crimes of the Heart” is set in 1974 in Mississippi, the culture and lifestyle of the South plays an important role in the production. Social status, gossip and small-town life mean the sister’s actions are publicly scrutinized.
During the first act, the audience seemed hesitant to laugh at some of the more taboo issues, but the skillful delivery of the actors soon warmed up the crowd, convincing them to react to the most unpleasant of subjects.
Only six actors donned the stage over the course of the play, the three sisters being featured the most. Their performances boosted a classic time-period play to a current comedy that thoroughly pleased their opening night audience.