Rhode Island College Theatre's autumn show this year is "Crimes of the Heart" by Beth Henley. At the core of this tragic comedy, a Pulitzer Prize winning show, are the three MacGrath sisters, Meg, Babe and Lenny, who reunite at Old Granddaddy's home in Hazelhurst, Mississippi after Babe shoots her abusive husband. The trio was raised in a dysfunctional family with a penchant for ugly predicaments and each has endured her share of hardship and misery. Past resentments bubble to the surface as they are forced to deal with assorted relatives and past relationships while coping with the latest incident that has disrupted their lives. Each sister is forced to face the consequences of the "crimes of the heart" she has committed. The show opened on Broadway on November 4, 1981 and ran for 535 performances. Director Casey Seymour Kim picks six topnotch students to play these roles. Their reward is a resounding standing ovation at the close of this well directed and acted show.
Director Kim obtains strong acting prowess from the cast. She gives her cast many comic moments to mine this well written script. Casey is a fantastic actress herself, having reviewed her in many stellar performances.The marvelous set is by Katryne Hecht while the 1970's costumes are by Marcia Zammarelli. This Southern Gothic play takes a compassionate look at good country people whose lives have gone wrong. Author Henley infuses humor into the eccentric characters. The MacGrath sisters are all grown up but still trying to find themselves. Henley shows that a sisterly bond endures no matter what you've been through. Mary Arnold plays Lenny who is celebrating her 30th birthday at the start of the show without yet knowing true love. She captures the pathos of the sister who stayed with their ailing grandfather while the other two escaped. Her funniest moment occurs when she chases her bitchy cousin, Chick out of the house with a broom which wins her thunderous applause. Mary delivers a strong performance in both the comic and dramatic aspects of this character. Gorgeous statuesque red head, Stephanie Barney plays Meg who was a successful hometown singer but whose singing career in California hasn't lived up to expectations. She displays the gutsy behavior for this role while drinking and swearing up a storm. One of her funniest bits is eating all of Lenny's birthday candy by taking a bite out of each one of them. Mia Ceglie is the youngest sister, Babe who just had an argument with her husband and shot him because she "didn't like his looks." There is much more to this story which the audience learns during these proceedings. Mia shows the inner rage of Babe at first and then delivers the goods later on in a poignant way during the revelation scene. She is also hilarious when she tries to kill her self with a rope and then sticking her head in the oven.
Joe DeLeo plays Barnette, the lawyer who is defending Babe against the charges that she shot her abusive husband. He enters gangbusters into the scene, delivering a powerful performance like he did last year as Ben in "The Little Foxes." He does an excellent job as the lawyer who has a vendetta against Babe's husband because he ruined Barnette's father's life. Michaela Nerney is a hoot as the bitchy, catty cousin, Chick. She has a disparaging word about everyone and everything. Her opening scene is hilarious as she changes her pantyhose onstage. Michaela runs roughshod over the sisters until Lenny gives her comeuppance with a broom. Victor Neto does a wonderful job as Doc, an old boyfriend of Meg who even though he is married still carries a torch for her after all these years. So for a look back at a Southern Gothic tragic comedy, be sure to catch this remarkable and well written play, "Crimes of the Heart" with all its dramatic and comic twists and turns. You will also witness some brilliant acting by these college students, too. I found this version much more enjoyable than the Broadway version with Casey's deft comic touch to lighten what could be a downer. Brava!