Kenyon College Drama Club’s (KCDC) Crimes of the Heart follows three sisters — Lenny, Meg and Babe Magrath — living in the shadow of their mother’s suicide. The production of Bethenley’s 1979 play was in fulfillment of the senior theses of director Rebecca Simantov ’19 and actors Mollie Greenberg ’19, Olivia Lindsay ’19 and Natalie Zimmerman ’19. The play was staged in the Hill Theater on Jan. 25 and 26.
In Hazlehurst, Miss. in the mid-20th century, the three women find their way back to each other in the wake of a town scandal and their grandfather’s failing health. Their mother’s suicide induces a quiet grief that ultimately shapes the role of each daughter. The eldest, Lenny, assumes the role of the caretaker, tending to an offstage grandfather, and looks for love through a matchmaking service. Middle sister Meg lives in Hollywood pursuing a singing career while enduring the drudgery of a day job. And the youngest, Babe, was trapped in an abusive marriage and must contend with her fate after she shoots her husband because she didn’t “like his looks.”
The stage was warmly lit and carefully arranged, evoking the nostalgia of a childhood home. Nearly the entire play takes place in the kitchen, framed by two doors: an old, worn-down side entrance and a front door. The Magrath girls and those close to them burst in through the side entrance, rarely bothering to knock, creating a sense of familiarity among the characters.
The set — designed by Laurel Waller ’19 — enveloped the audience in the action, as the smoke from Meg’s cigarettes and the gurgle of the boiling coffee pot wafted from the stage. The crew gave the costume design a similar attention to detail, as each sister’s distinctive outfit represented her life path in historically appropriate style.
The script provided ample opportunity for the three leading ladies to showcase their talents. Zimmerman’s performance was particularly well done: Babe’s innocent girlishness hides something darker beneath the surface, a darkness that Zimmerman drew out with empathy and a sense of understanding. Although Babe has done horrible things, she was never portrayed as unforgivable.
Lindsay’s Meg was sharp, funny and ridden with unresolved tensions in both career and romance (her old flame Doc Porter was portrayed by Adam Riva ’21). Greenberg endowed Lenny with an admirable discipline and misplaced self-doubt, crafting a sympathetic character with understated charm. Meredith Rupp ’19 consistently delivered laughs with her loudmouthed, unsolicited outbursts and exaggerated mannerisms as gossipy cousin Chick Boyle. Her character contributed much-needed levity to an otherwise somber story, along with Jon Hammond’s ’20 naive but well-meaning lawyer Barnette Lloyd.
Though tragedy lurks in every corner, the joyous moments of Crimes of the Heart stand out more than anything; the well-timed humor perfectly balances the serious moments. Crimes of the Heart is a resonant dark comedy about life going on despite hardships, delivering the message that there is always something to look forward to — no matter how difficult life becomes.