BWW Review: CRIMES OF THE HEART Brings Southern Charm to Mill Town Players
"You know how it feels on a really bad day?"
The Magrath sisters are having a very bad day.
The eldest sister, Lenny, is turning thirty, but she's all alone, resorting to shoving a candle in a cookie and singing Happy Birthday to herself. The middle sister, Meg, is returning from Hollywood to visit her small-town Mississippi home, but she's got a few secrets that are weighing heavily on her heart. And Babe, sweet Babe, the youngest and most earnest of the Magrath sisters, has just been arrested for shooting her own husband.
Yep, they're having a pretty bad day.
That's the set up for Mill Town Players new production of Crimes of the Heart, Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize winning comic character study. It's a slice of life steeped in Southern traditions, family divisions, shattered dreams, silent regrets, everyday joys, a little bit of bourbon, and a whole lot of cake.
Director Jay Briggs lets the play roll out pretty naturalistically, which is just right for introducing us to characters who tell us that "stories came pouring out of my mouth." This is a play about stories - the ones we tell our families, the ones we tell our neighbors, and the ones we tell ourselves - and how all those stories can differ and change and reveal truths we'd sometimes rather not acknowledge.
Katie Halstengard anchors the show as the put-upon Lenny, with fine support from DeAnna Gregory as the harsh and world-weary Meg, and Emilie Bracchitta as bright-eyed Babe. Mary Katherine Sosebee is wonderfully annoying as cousin Chick, and Aaron Pennington shows some quiet charm as Meg's old flame, Doc. Maybe best of all is Kyle Thompson as Barnette, the young lawyer brought in to help defend Babe.
Director Briggs also earns credit for his effective sound design, and scenic designer Rick Conner did a terrific job bringing a small town Mississippi home to life.
I enjoyed listening to these characters talk as more and more of their lives were revealed. I also laughed quite a bit, as did The Audience (i) was with. We also got some encouraging shouts along the lines of "You go girl!" from a couple of audience members as they witnessed some of those revelations. And while some of the emotional highs near the play's conclusion didn't quite land for me, I suspect it was mostly because I saw it opening night. This is a show that will likely grow and deepen over the course of the run as the actors find their rhythms and further develop their characters' relationships. Overall, it's a journey well worth taking.
Crimes of the Heart
A Play by Beth Henley
Jan 18 - Feb 3
Thurs - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 3pm
Mill Town Players
Historic Pelzer Auditorium
214 Lebby Street
Pelzer, SC 29669
Tickets $12, with $10 for seniors, military, and students
The scene is Hazlehurst, Mississippi, where the three Magrath sisters have gathered to await news of the family patriarch, their grandfather, who is living out his last hours in the local hospital. Lenny, the oldest sister, is unmarried at thirty and facing diminishing marital prospects; Meg, the middle sister, who quickly outgrew Hazlehurst, is back after a failed singing career on the West Coast; while Babe, the youngest, is out on bail after having shot her husband in the stomach. Their troubles, grave and yet, somehow, hilarious, are highlighted by their priggish cousin, Chick, and by the awkward young lawyer who tries to keep Babe out of jail while helpless not to fall in love with her. In the end the play is the story of how its young characters escape the past to seize the future.
Directed Jay Briggs, Crimes of the Heart features Katie Halstensgard, DeAnna Gregory, Emilie Bracchitta, Mary Katherine Sosebee, Kyle Thompson, and Aaron Pennington.
Tickets are only $12, with discounts for seniors, military, and students, and can be purchased online at www.milltownplayers.org, by calling (864)947-8000, or at the door.
Photo credit: Escobar Photography (L to R: Emilie Bracchitta, Katie Halstensgard, DeAnna Gregory)