Theatre — Crimes of the Heart

Crimes in Milford

Area players perform award-winning tragic comedy

By Michelle Saturley []

Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy/drama Crimes of the Heart is one of those challenging, meaty plays that community actresses long to sink their teeth into.

There are three complex, unique female lead roles, each very different from the other. The Milford Area Players are looking forward to flexing their acting muscles with their version of the play, opening November 4.

Because the play takes place in the kitchen of eldest sister Lenny Magrath’s Mississippi  home, the cast of the show has been rehearsing in director Deb Shaw’s living room, which has been made over into a kitchen for the show. Crimes will be Shaw’s directorial debut.

“It’s a different way to rehearse, but I think it gives the players a more realistic atmosphere, and helps them get into character,” said Jan Oliver, a board member at Milford Area Players.

“I’ve assistant directed mainstage shows before, but this will be my first time directing by myself,” Shaw said. “I really wanted to do this show in Milford, because even though the show takes place in Mississippi, there are certain small-town similarities that I think people here can relate to in their own lives.”

Shaw says her background in psychology and years as an actress helped her prepare to direct this show, which is a definite exercise in character study.

“Even though there are some lighthearted moments in the play, it’s really a look at how these women function in this small town, and how certain actions and certain taboos just aren’t discussed, not even within a family,” Shaw said.

The play chronicles the often-tumultuous lives of three southern-raised sisters: Lenny, the oldest and most motherly sister, Meg, the prodigal middle sister with a wild-child attitude, and Babe, the sweet but unhappily married younger sister.

The sisters come together after a time of separation to help get Babe out of a legal problem brought on, in part, by an affair with a local teenage boy. Meg, who has been out in L.A. trying to make it in show business, returns home and immediately rekindles an old relationship with an ex-boyfriend who never quite got over her.

There’s also Chick, a cousin of the women, who likes to think that she’s better than they are, but still can’t help sticking her nose into the family business.

While many of the plot points of Crimes are serious, Henley has written some laugh-out-loud comic relief moments that even make themes like infidelity, depression and suicide funny.

The play was made into a critically acclaimed movie starring Diane Keaton as Lenny, Jessica Lange as Meg, and Sissy Spacek as Babe. The movie stayed true to the script for the most part, although it did take the characters out of Lenny’s kitchen.

Milford Area Players has consistently mounted quality community theatre productions, including last fall’s production of Lost in Yonkers, which garnered the group a New Hampshire Theatre Award. The group has a reputation for assembling some of the area’s finest talent and staging ambitious, thought-provoking works.

Crimes of the Heart plays Thursday, Nov. 4, Friday, Nov. 5 and Saturday, Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. A matinee is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. The theatre is located at The Performing Arts Center is just north of the Milford Oval on Route 13 I Milford. Tickets are $10. For more information, go to or call 673-2258.

—Michelle Saturley

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