Set in the Deep South, but inspired by Anton Chekhov’s “The Three Sisters,” “Crimes of the Heart,” is an utterly charming play about three sisters who reunite at a crucial intersection of their lives. It garnered its Jackson, Miss.-born author, Beth Henley, a Pulitzer Prize in 1981. The play is a testament to the idea that the best comedy is born from tragedy.
Under the direction of Barbara Redmond and produced by the Banyan Theater Company, the play is fast-paced and in-your-face funny. Its tone is laced with Dixie sarcasm, for example, a woman is described as “cheap Christmas trash.”
The inciting incident of the plot is the return of a sister, who has shot her husband. When asked why she shot him, another sister answers, “She didn’t like his looks.”
The well-written play is backed up by a wealth of wonderful acting. Maxey Whitehead is perfect as Lenny Magrath, the eldest, put-upon sister who’s fearful of winding up a spinster. She describes the act of phoning a potential boyfriend as “... my heart was pounding ... I could see my blouse moving back and forth!”
Georgia Mallory Guy, as interfering cousin Chick Boyle, is marvelously obnoxious and petty. Christopher Swan is amazingly apt as jilted Doc Porter, considering he had only 36 hours to prepare for his part because the original actor suddenly dropped out. Lanky Jesse Dornan brings his own comic touch to the part of passionate lawyer Barnette Lloyd. Kelly Campbell is ironic, spontaneous and compelling as Meg Magrath, the sister who was expected to be the most successful, but whose career has fallen desperately short of those expectations. Lucy Lavely employs a well-chosen blend of petulance and naivety as Babe Botrelle, the youngest sister who recently hospitalized her husband.
The story takes place in the kitchen of the Magrath sisters’ house in Mississippi, which has been thoughtfully decorated by Set Designer Jeffrey W. Dean. Costume Designer Timothy Beltley provided the circa 1974 period-correct outfits that add interest and character depth to the performance.
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