Chick Boyle: So Rebecca, what are you going to tell Mr. Lloyd about shooting Zachery, uh, what are your reasons gonna be?
Rebeca ‘Babe’: That I didn’t like his looks. That I didn’t like his stinkin’ looks! I don’t like yours either Chickie stick. So leave me alone and I mean it. Just leave me alone!
“At the end of 1980, Crimes of the Heart was produced off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club for a limited, sold-out, engagement of thirty-two performances. By the time the play transferred to Broadway in November, 1981, Crimes of the Heart had received the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. Henley was the first woman to win the Pulitzer for Drama in twenty-three years, and her play was the first ever to win before opening on Broadway. Crimes of the Heart went on to garner the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New American Play, a Guggenheim Award, and a Tony nomination. The tremendously successful Broadway production ran for 535 performances, spawning regional productions in London, Chicago, Washington, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Houston. The success of the play—and especially the prestige of the Pulitzer award—assured Henley’s place among the elite of the American theatre for years to come. As Henley herself put it, with typically wry humor, “winning the Pulitzer Prize means I’ll never have to work in a dog-food factory again” (Haller 44).” http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/crimes-heart#A
This dark comedy set in the still small town of Hazlehurst, Mississippi (pop. reported in 2016 as 3,883), may well be the archetype by which all plays in this series will earn my recommendation. Crimes of the Heart is well-written, hilarious, character-driven within realistic circumstances, and portrays women as combatants in the war of life, not victims. It happens to have been written by a woman. Especially, for those of you who have read my peculiarities IT’S NOT SET IN NYC!
It is no surprise that Crimes of the Heart remains a staple in the seasons of many theatres, even though I haven’t ever seen it here in Pleasantville. I checked the production history of our longest running community theatre and despite it being a community theatre’s wet dream (comedy, strong central roles for women, 1 interior set, inexpensive props and costumes), it has never been produced in the 50-year history of the theatre. Perhaps, early on, there were some moral concerns (murder, interracial affair with a teenager, ridiculously failed attempts at suicide) but most all tawdriness is offstage and the story is done with so much humor, I cannot see how nearly anyone, outside of a Puritan complete with stovepipe hat, would have been, or would ever be offended. This should be produced in every season until the end of time replacing any considered future production of the The Marvelous Swim Club of Church Basement Nuns.
Recommendation: STRONG: YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!
Cast: 4w/2m, regional accents, all characters 19-32, Doc walks with a slight limp. Casting notice: https://www.backstage.com/casting/crimes-of-the-heart-4555/
Royalties (professional): $100 per performance
Running Time: Two hours, with an intermission
Costumes: approximately 13 including conservative practical dresses circa 1974 or earlier. 2 men’s costumes: 1 casual, 2 costumes for an attorney (season: fall Mississippi)
Set: single interior: 1974, kitchen of Gothic home in Hazlehurst, Mississippi with table and 4 chairs, practical sink, period oven range (1950s)
Props: saxophone case, weathered luggage circa mid-1960s, bag of pecans (some practical in shell), nylon stockings in point-of-sale packaging (1974) for each night, practical cake, antique phone, twine
Controversial topics: Suicide, infidelity, sexual relations with a minor, attempted murder, dark humor (coma).
Suitable for: community theatre, summer stock, regional theatre
- 1981 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play
- 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
- 1982 Theatre World Award
- 1982 Tony Award for Best Play
- 1982 Tony Award, Best Featured Actress in a Play
Mia Dillon, Mary Beth Hurt
- 1982 Tony Award, Best Direction of a Play (Melvin Bernhardt)
- 1981 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play
- 1981 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Play (Mary Beth Hurt)
- 1981 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Play
- 2002 Lucille Lortel Award, Outstanding Revival
Recent production reviews:
DC Metro Theatre Arts: http://dcmetrotheaterarts.com/2016/02/28/189881/
Twin Cities Pioneer Press: http://www.twincities.com/2014/05/11/crimes-of-the-heart-review-guthrie-theater-does-right-by-play/