The year is 1974. While the war in Viet Nam dominates headlines across America, the small town of Hazlehurst, Mississippi is dealing with salacious news all its own. Prominent attorney and politician Zachary Botrelle has been shot in the gut—presumably by his pretty, young wife Babe, youngest of the Macgrath sisters. Babe admits she did it, and so the real question is why. At least, that is what her sisters Lenny and Meg want to know.
The energy this dynamic cast shares makes them believable as sisters struggling to come to terms with their family’s past and present dysfunction.
And so, the scene is set for playwright Beth Henley’s 1981 Pulitzer Prize winning drama, “Crimes of the Heart.” In the 80s, this comedy-tragedy was so popular it was adapted as a novel and as a screenplay. Hollywood heavy-hitters Jessica Lange, Diane Keaton, and Sissy Spacek starred in the blockbuster hit and the movie garnered multiple Academy Award nominations.
Now, The Colonial Players have made “Crimes of the Heart” their own. The Annapolis-based troupe’s theater-in-the-round stage has been transformed into the kitchen of Old Granddaddy’s home where the Macgrath girls were raised. Lenny never left Hazelhurst. She has spent her adulthood as Old Granddaddy’s caretaker. Meg has returned from California where her singing career failed to take off. Babe is out on bail. In addition to dealing with the fallout of the shooting, the family is awaiting news of Old Granddaddy who is, once again, in the hospital and on death’s doorstep.
Under the direction of Robin Schwartz, Emily Roberge delivers an outstanding performance as worried wallflower Lenny; Kat Binney shines as glamorous, devil-may-care Meg; and Megan Henderson portrays flirtatious, desperate Babe with captivating tenderness. The energy this dynamic cast shares makes them believable as sisters struggling to come to terms with their family’s past and present dysfunction.
The supporting cast gives an equally satisfying performance. Shannon Benil plays social-climbing cousin Chick Boyle (Please note the role of Chick Boyle is split between Shannon Benil and Ellen Quay.) Dylan Roche plays Doc Porter, Meg’s old love interest, and Kyle Hartford rounds out the cast as Barnette Lloyd, the smitten, young attorney representing Babe—and falling in love with her.
The set and props are detailed—everything one would expect from a country kitchen circa 1970s, including the avocado-green wall oven and rotary telephone. The popular music of the 1960s and 70s coming through a countertop radio add to the ambiance. Costumes are an authentic blast-from-the-past, too—Barnette Lloyd’s white patent leather shows and plaid suit are not to be missed! The talents of sound designers David Cooper and Chase Nester, set designer Heather Quinn, costume designer Linda Ridge, and properties designer Constance Robinson are all on display in this hit play.
Be warned, however. “Crimes of the Heart” contains difficult themes, including suicide and domestic violence, and therefore, may be triggering for some audience members. Also, some plot points have not aged well—a play set in the 70s and written in the 80s handles topics such as race and age-inappropriate sexual relationships without the sensitivity we are accustomed to in 2023. To truly enjoy “Crimes of the Heart” as the sweet, sad, funny tale of family that it is, you may have to leave the present day at the door.
Running time: Two hours and 30 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
Advisory: Includes adult themes of suicide and domestic violence.
“Crimes of the Heart” runs Thursday through Sunday through January 28, 2023 at The Colonial Players, 108 East St, Annapolis, MD 21401. For more information and tickets go online. Click here for directions and parking information. Face masks will be required for all patrons at all times at the following performances: Sunday, January 22, 2023 and Friday, January 27, 2023. Face masks are optional, but strongly encouraged for all other performances.