Review: CRIMES OF THE HEART at Center Playhouse Shows How Sisters Bond Over Love and Heartbreak

Beth Henley's classic play runs at Center Playhouse through May 22!

By: May. 09, 2022

Review: CRIMES OF THE HEART at Center Playhouse Shows How Sisters Bond Over Love and Heartbreak

Center Playhouse in Freehold presents their newest production of Beth Henley's classic play, Crimes of the Heart. The tragicomedy is produced by Roberta Fallon and directed by Anthony Marinelli. Crimes of the Heart was a co-winner of the Great American Play Contest at The Actors Theatre of Louisville, and its first performance was held in February 1979. The play expanded its presence with many other productions across the country, including a run at Broadway's John Golden Theatre in November 1981.

Crimes of the Heart is set in Hazlehurst, Mississippi in the mid-20th century, and centers around the three Magrath sisters: Lenny, Meg, and Babe. The siblings reunite to take care of their sick grandfather, who is in the hospital. During their time together, the sisters bond over their experiences with love and heartbreak. Babe is struggling with the aftermath of attempting to murder her abusive husband, causing Lenny and Meg to reflect on their own past romances. The Magrath sisters haven't been in a successful relationship so far, but eventually realize that the deepest love is found within each other.

Review: CRIMES OF THE HEART at Center Playhouse Shows How Sisters Bond Over Love and Heartbreak

The actresses who play the Magrath sisters are extremely talented and have a connection that resembles real-life sisters onstage. Linda Paone stars as the responsible, older sister Lenny Magrath. Donna Nicholle is the spicy, fun middle sister Meg Magrath. Rebecca Grossman takes on the role of the mischievous, youngest sister Babe Magrath Botrelle. Each sister is unique in her own way, and the women combine their different personalities to complement one another. They put on a performance with many layers, which allows the audience to see the highs and lows of their sisterhood in the play.

There were three other cast members in this production who added drama to the play's storyline. Candace Predham portrays Chick Boyle, the Magrath sisters' sassy first cousin. Ryan Irving plays Meg's rugged ex-boyfriend, Doc Porter. Christopher Berry completes the cast as Babe's intelligent and straightforward lawyer, Barnette Lloyd. These supporting characters did their part to enhance the play's chaotic storyline and interact with the sisters in a significant way. The cast as a whole navigates Beth Henley's rollercoaster of a play like true professionals.

Review: CRIMES OF THE HEART at Center Playhouse Shows How Sisters Bond Over Love and Heartbreak

Director Anthony Marinelli created the set design for Crimes of the Heart. All three acts of the play take place in the kitchen of the Magrath sisters' house in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Marinelli recreated an ornate kitchen structure with working appliances like a refrigerator and stove (donated by Stephen Kazakoff from Howell High School). Amy Scott of Copiah County contributed issues of the local newspaper (The Copiah Monitor and The Copiah County Courier) for the actors to use as props in the play. She also helped with vocal coaching to make sure the cast was able to speak in an accurate southern dialect. The lighting and sound design (also by Anthony Marinelli) brought audiences into the tense drama of the Macgrath family household.

Center Playhouse's production of Crimes of the Heart keeps everyone on their toes with each unexpected scene. It is a play that has the crowd laughing hysterically, but also feeling emotional at the same time. This show is heartwarming and teaches a lesson about how love between family members is the most important thing. Audiences who see the play will leave having a greater appreciation for their siblings and relatives.

Tickets for Crimes of the Heart can be purchased by calling 732-462-9093 or visiting Center Playhouse's website at The show will be performed through May 22. Center Playhouse is located at 35 South Street in Freehold, NJ. For more information, please check out the theatre's Facebook page at

Photo Credit: Mark Lamhut