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BWW Review: CRIMES OF THE HEART Is Heart-Stopping in Bursts at NEXTSTOP Theatre


The Andrew Sisters. Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland. Sibling feuds and rivalries are timeless. Crimes of the Heart, written by Beth Henley, is a play about the complexity of sibling relationships. In NEXTSTOP Theatre's Crimes of the Heart, directed by Suzanne Maloney, three sisters, Lenny Magrath (Anna Fagan), Meg Magrath (Carolyn Kashner), and Babe Botrelle (Rebecca Hausman), are reunited at their grandfather's home in Hazlehurst, Mississippi during the fall of 1974. The circumstances of their reunion are heartbreaking - their grandfather's health is on the decline and Babe is on bail as the primary suspect in a shooting. The siblings only remaining family is their grandfather and stuck-up cousin, Chick (Jaclyn Young). For the sisters, the past haunts the present day. Meg confronts her guilt and amends loose ties with her former boyfriend, Doc Porter (Matt Baughman). Lenny faces her loneliness. Babe, with the help of her lawyer, Barnette Lloyd (Robert Pike), battles with the possibility of life behind bars. NEXTSTOP Theatre's production of Crimes of the Heart provides a few bursts of heart-stopping drama with minimal laughs and leaves the 1970's aesthetic at the door.

In the production, drama is abound many scenes. Fagan, Kashner, and Hausman are the main actors who carry the production forward. Their scenes together are the most attention grabbing. Although, it is quite the heavy burden to listen to the sisters' argue via shouting matches. Kashner and Hausman are believable as siblings, but it becomes harder to see Fagan as the older sister with them in the same room. With Kashner and Hausman present, Fagan's performance is less strong. Fagan shines best during scenes where she is by herself. Fagan's portrayal of Lenny's loneliness during a scene in which she sings "Happy Birthday" to herself is heart wrenching. Hausman and Kashner's scenes together are the strongest in the production, especially a tense scene in which Babe tells Meg about how she ended up in jail. Kashner and Baughman are only in one scene together, but their chemistry is apparent (even if only for a brief second) during a scene in which Doc and Meg get so close that there is only a whiskey glass between them. Alas, the drama is more dominant than anything else. Despite pinpoints of dramatic scenes, Crimes of the Heart doesn't mix drama and comedy well. It is hard to tell when to laugh or when to cry. Only one-third of the audience understood the macabre humor and the rest are left behind. Perhaps, Beth Henley's script is not as relevant as it was in the 1970's. There are plenty of potential opportunities for comic timing especially during scenes in which Kashner, Hausman, and Baughman interact with Young and Barnette, but these opportunities are not taken advantage of direction wise.

The set, designed by Jack Golden, is a quaint kitchen with all the bells and whistles including a working faucet, old appliances, a dining room, and a stair case tucked into a hallway. There isn't anything within the set that screams this is the South and it isn't until Kagan, speaking in her Southern drawl, makes an appearance on stage that you realize that you aren't in Kansas anymore. Despite the set's lack of Southern hospitality, it fits the template for an older house occupied by the Magrath sisters' grandfather. At first, it is hard to tell what time period the set is supposed to be in. Is it the 50's? Is it the 70's? The internal debate about the time period continues for a good while. Many of the costumes, designed by Kristina Martin, are appropriate for the characters' personalities, but they do not fit the aesthetic of the 1970's. It isn't until Kashner makes her first appearance as Meg in her flare plaid pants and red short sleeve sweater that one realizes that this is the 1970's.

Crimes of the Heart runs until March 20, 2016. The production runs at about 2 hours and 30 minutes with an intermission. Tickets can be purchased online.

Pictured: Anna Fagan, Carolyn Kashner, and Rebecca Hausman in Crimes of the Heart at NextStop Theatre. Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

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