I make a point of always following up on recommendations that teachers and other actors give me for plays to read: my colleagues, involved in the business as they are, always have the best suggestions. So when a teacher suggested I read
Crimes of the Heart
, I went right to the Drama Bookshop in New York and picked up a copy of the play.
Crimes of the Heart
chronicles a couple of days in the lives of three sisters: Lenny, Meg, and Babe. Other characters include a smitten lawyer and prudish cousin. At the top of the play the sisters reunite after years of pursuing their own lives away from each other. It happens to be Lenny's 30th birthday. As they catch up on their years apart, they also struggle to escape a past blacked with various troubles; the most tragic of which being their mother's suicide. As the plot develops and we learn more about their past, we also learn more about their future; and ultimately, about their hope and resilience.
This is an amazing play: funny and incredibly dark at the same time. These sisters swing back and forth between despair and happiness as they try to cope with both the big issues and everyday trials: at one point, for example, Meg and Babe alternate between talking about ordering a cake for their sister and why Babe shot her husband in the stomach. This scene in particular caught my attention precisely because of its light-hearted and dark nature: it begins and ends with discussion of the cake, but in between there is some pretty heavy dialogue. But at the same time the heavy topics are handled as light-heartedly as they can possibly be, so there are points in the play where the audience or reader is caught between laughter and tears'both seem appropriate and oddly disconcerting at once. It is wonderful and very telling at the same time that Lenny's cake is such a motif throughout the play: all of the sisters keep coming back to it in one way or other when they want to cheer themselves up. Burdened as they are by the memory of their mother and their own troubles, they also have the capacity to lose themselves completely and honestly in the present moment. These women are absolutely fascinating: honest, funny, tragic, ridiculous, and completely human.
This is a great play for actors, directors, producers, and teachers alike. The cast is small; and the scenes and sets are contained, making it easy for teachers to pull bits and pieces for their students to work on. The size of the cast and the nature of the set (everything takes place in the kitchen) also gives it the potential to be a relatively low-budget production. And, of course, there are several amazing parts for women. I know that I, at least, would love to be in a run of this show someday.