Review: CRIMES OF THE HEART at The Arctic Playhouse

This Pulitzer Prize winner runs through June 2nd

By: May. 22, 2024
Review: CRIMES OF THE HEART at The Arctic Playhouse
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The small Southern town of Hazelhurst, Mississippi is brought to life here on the Arctic Playhouse stage in its charming, touching production of Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, ‘Crimes of the Heart.’

Dutifully directed by Karen Besson, ‘Crimes of the Heart’ introduces the three Magrath sisters who gather at the home of their Granddaddy when one of them gets into trouble with the law. The oldest, Lenny (Sarah Quintiliani), is celebrating her 30th birthday, but has yet to fall in love. Meg (Sarah Elizabeth Taylor), an aspiring singer, has no trouble whatsoever getting the attention of men. Southern belle Babe (Emma Dunlop), the only married member of the trio, finds herself in jail after shooting her abusive husband, a renowned lawyer and politician.

The interplay takes place in the kitchen of Grandaddy’s house, crafted with impressive, authentic detail by John Braica and Bob Gerold, where Lenny now lives by herself and is frequently visited by her meddling, incorrigibly chatty cousin, Chick (Kathleen Seagriff-Chapman). When the chain-smoking Meg arrives, she and Lenny try to imagine why their sister would have shot her husband, until Babe shows up, out on bail, and matter-of-factly declares it was because “she didn’t like his looks.”

All three women are noticeably different, physically and emotionally, yet the actresses demonstrate extraordinary chemistry that seamlessly convinces the audiences of their sisterhood, through shared moments of mutual aggravation and affection. Henley’s engaging script, while not perfect and arguably too lengthy, is equally comedic and dramatic, and the performances perfectly capture the temperament and sentiment of the characters and storyline.

Shortly after the sisters are reunited, Grandaddy’s condition worsens, Meg meets up with an old flame, Doc (Ben Davis), Lenny acquires the courage to contact a former love interest, and Babe is informed by her attorney, Barnette (Kevin Thibault), that her husband has evidence to prove her guilt. Despite the tumultuous timeline of events, which continuously raises the tension among the siblings, the Magraths stand by each other throughout, always reminding each other of the history that only they have in common.

Quintiliani is especially endearing and sympathetic as the spinster sister, Lenny; Taylor’s commanding presence demands attention as the free-spirited Meg; and Dunlop shines brightly as the skittish, passionate Babe. Seagriff-Chapman takes the stage by storm as Chick, whose cavalier disposition ultimately brings out the worst in the typically meek Lenny and results in one of the production’s most hilarious moments.

It would be criminal if I failed to mention costumer Nancy Rodrigues Spirito, who dresses Chick and Meg in colorful, eye-catching outfits that speak volumes about the characters.

Arctic Playhouse’s ‘Crimes of the Heart’ is entertaining and uplifting, courtesy of Besson’s exquisite direction and remarkable performances from the cast.

‘Crimes of the Heart’ runs through June 2 at The Arctic Playhouse, 1249 Main Street in West Warwick, RI. For tickets and information, call 401-573-3443 or visit


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