TCT performs 'Crimes of the Heart'

Bobby Pepper, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo
·4 min read

Apr. 8—TUPELO — The relationship dynamics between sisters can be quite complex.

There are times when they're rivals and can't stand each other. But even in their messiness there are heartfelt moments when sisterly love takes over and they have each other's backs.

Few theater productions accurately capture this sibling relationship better than "Crimes of the Heart," written by Jackson native Beth Henley. The story of sisters who reunite in their Mississippi hometown won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and earned a Tony Award nomination in 1986.

Tupelo Community Theatre will present "Crimes of the Heart" April 15-17 at the Lyric Theatre. Three evening performances and a Saturday matinee show are scheduled.

"Crimes of the Heart" was first staged at TCT in 1988.

"It's a timeless play about three eccentric sisters who have faced some real trials and challenges in their lives but hold on to some hope through the love, warmth and affection to one another," said Jonathan Martin, who is directing the TCT production.

The tragicomedy centers around the Magrath siblings who grew up in a dysfunctional home in Hazlehurst and reunite at the home of their ill grandfather.

Haley Johnson plays Lenny, the oldest sister who stayed home to care for Granddaddy; Maddie Ludt is Meg, the middle child who took off to Los Angeles for a singing career; and Allie Nichols is Babe, the youngest who's married to an attorney and state senator. When they reunite, they're faced with an immediate crisis: Babe is accused of shooting her husband. As the play progresses, the sisters face consequences for "crimes of the heart" they've committed.

"Eveybody knows this show," Johnson said. "Especially for female actors, everybody kind of knows this is one of the main shows women want to do as actors."

There's only six cast members. Playing supporting roles are Becky Shaffer as Chick Boyle, the sisters' first cousin; Jamie Fair as Doc Porter, Meg's former boyfriend; and Phil Milner as Barnette Lloyd, Babe's attorney.

Martin said "Crimes of the Heart" is a showcase of an excellent cast.

"They had to spend a lot of time early in rehearsal with not just getting on book but developing relationships," he said. "It was long hours of rehearsal working through a densely-written, challenging script. The actors' relationship dynamics shift from moment to moment, as we do in everyday life with the people we love. The actors had to be familiar with the script in a deep way and had to be able to work with and play off their fellow actors on stage. They've done a tremendous job."

Ludt said Meg was the character she wanted to play in "Crimes of the Heart."

"I've seen the show multiple times and I've always wanted to be in it," she said. "I don't think Meg and I have a lot in common. I thought she was a different character and would be a fun character to play because we don't have a lot in common."

In order to play a character from small-town Mississippi, Johnson said she had to regain a Southern accent.

"Some of the work we've actually had to do was make our accents sound good, which you wouldn't think would be a problem," she said. "Some of us have been in the theater so long, we're taught to do neutral accents. So, we've got to throw it back home and rediscover our Southern accent. You know, talk like we're from here."

Nichols said "Crimes of the Heart" reveals how families cope with their imperfections.

"It really holds up the mirror to the dysfunctional family thing." she said. "It's like 'Oh, you see yourself here? Yeah, me too.' It's good to be able to show that to people and not have the Norman Rockwell platonic family situation."

Show times for "Crimes of the Heart" are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday. Seating is limited due to COVID-19 restrictions and all patrons must wear masks.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and younger. The play contains a limited amount of language that some may find offensive.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call TCT at (662) 844-1935 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

bobby.pepper@djournal.com