If you weren't around in the '80s, you may have missed the Crimes of the Heart phenomenon.
The story, originally a play written by Beth Henley and then adapted into a 1986 film starring Jessica Lange, Diane Keaton, and Sissy Spacek, follows three southern sisters as they struggle to cope with life and trauma. One sister shoots her husband, causing the scrambling matriarchy to re-group and reveal raw wounds.
In January, American Stage will bring Crimes of the Heart to the Mainstage as the fourth show in the season.
There's a lot of good, bad, and complicated in this classic drama. We did our best to break the themes down for you.
Good vs. Evil
None of the MaGrath family, despite their emotional flaws, are necessarily evil people in playwright Beth Henley's eyes.
In 1974, the year in which Crimes of the Heart is set, the world was in quite a lot of turmoil. The Vietnam War was in full blast and President Nixon was in the midst of his infamous Watergate scandal.
While the characters don’t mention these current events, there’s an evil in (and outside) the room we can’t see.
It’s pretty apparent these women are struggling with generational trauma and mental illness. At the forefront of the production, the sister’s mother’s suicide is a topic still lingering in the air.
While Meg, Babe, and Lenny have their own problems, this tragic death - caused by their mother’s depression or another inability to deal with her husband’s abandonment, - catapulted them into a more desolate state. These are women who have suffered from truam, and are nearly incapable of not inflicting it again and again.
Despite being a female-led play dominated by sisterhood, the Crimes of the Heart universe isn’t safe from the patriarchy of the south.
Anytime a male enters the sister’s space, whether it’s physically or just in conversation, it’s an attack on the protagonists. The character, Old Granddaddy not only forced unhappiness on the sisters, but their own father left the family, leading to their mother’s suicide.
The Human Spirit
Looking into someone’s home, or in this case, the kitchen is an emotional experience. With Crimes of the Heart, we not only see the cracks and sweet moments in this Mississippian family’s life but we are invited to scrutinize it.
One thing that breaks through, especially at the play’s finish, is the tenacity of the human spirit. These women have been through so much and put each other through so much. Their ability to forge ahead and continue to try and connect
Most of us can relate to these themes, and watching the painful parts of familial love and tradition come to life on stage is bound to raise a few feelings.
About the Show:
Follow the story of three sisters as they escape the past to seize the future. This dark and hilarious Pulitzer prize-winning play is so true and touching and consistently funny it will linger in the mind long after the curtain has descended.
Winner of the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Showtimes: Jan. 11 - Feb. 5
A two-act show.
Wednesday-Thursday, 7 p.m.
Friday, 8 p.m.
Saturday, 2 & 8 p.m.
Sunday. 2 p.m.
Tickets are available here. $45 single tickets. Call the box office at (727) 823-7529 for group sales.