Live Theatre, Concerts & Events

Playwright Beth Henley didn’t realize she had a tiger by the tail when she pulled Crimes of the Heart out of her typewriter in early 1978. At first, her comedy/drama about three troubled sisters in the South was roundly rejected by the theatre establishment. Then a friend secretly submitted Crimes of the Heart to a play-writing contest in Louisville, Kentucky, and the rest is history: the play went on to win the 1981 Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, establishing Beth Henley as a major voice in theatre.

Flash forward to 2014, when Perth’s own award-winning director Barb Guthrie discovers the play and becomes passionate about staging it here. Now, Perth audiences will finally have a chance to rave about this “warm-hearted, brilliantly imaginative” play themselves when it premieres at the Studio Theatre On October 9th.

Crimes of the Heart is set in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, where the Magrath sisters have gathered to await news of their grandfather, who is living out his final hours in the local hospital. The older sister, Lenny (Gina Tremaine), desperately wants to be married but, alas, at 30 and caring for her grandfather, her chances of landing a man are about the same as her chance of being hit by falling airplane parts. Meanwhile, middle sister Meg (Tracy Noonan) has fled back home from the West coast, where her dreams of being the next big thing on the music scene have fizzled. For her, coming home is rife with tension — she had left Hazlehurst years earlier to escape a storm of scandal involving her boyfriend, Doc. Lastly, Babe, (Mary Ann Majaury) the youngest sister, is just out on bail after having shot her husband in the stomach.

Did we mention this is a comedy? You could say that Crimes of the Heart puts the fun in dysfunction, as it teems with humour and humanity. As the New York Times says, “The play…is unmistakably the tale of a very troubled family. (But) Such is Miss Henley’s prodigious talent that she can serve us pain as if it were a piece of cake.”

The Magrath sisters’ weighty yet somehow hilarious problems are underscored by their arrogant cousin Chick (Patti Greer), and by the awkward young lawyer Barnette Lloyd (Andrew McDougall), who can’t help falling in love with Babe while trying to keep her out of jail. Scott Duncan plays Meg‘s ex-boyfriend Doc Porter, who has recently returned to Hazlehurst and is now married (gasp!) to a Yankee.

Crimes of the Heart brings us a rich smorgasbord of characters desperately trying to escape their past to seize the future. It’s a story that’s so human, touching and, yes, funny, that it will stay with you long after the applause fades.