Dysfunction, thy name is Magrath. After ten years, the three Magrath sisters reunite in the wake of their grandfather being hospitalized by a stroke. One is an unhappy old maid bound to the hometown to take care of their grandfather. One is a selfish diva with delusions of stardom. One has a charge of attempted murder hanging over her head. Will the sisters overcome their personal trials and long buried animosities to be a true family? Find out by watching Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley and currently playing at Lofte Community Theatre.
Henley’s script has its pluses and minuses. I personally felt that the script was somewhat overlong and could have been edited into a two act play as the first act is a bit of a slog. Once past the slow moving first act, the play really picks up the pace and the second and third acts are much more compelling and riveting as a result. Another weakness is that the play sets up several storylines, but doesn’t really resolve any of them. What the script lacks in story development, it more than makes up for in character development as the Magrath sisters are fully realized and gripping characters especially in the hands of the production’s three leading ladies.
Kevin Colbert’s direction is steady and sure. I appreciated the high quality of his staging as he kept his actors moving about the stage to keep the talky play from becoming static. He also understood the play’s numerous emotional moments and had his actors play them with unerring accuracy as they always felt genuine and realistic. He also coached his actors to high caliber performances.
Melissa Holder is absolutely spot on as Lenny Magrath. She brought a wonderful world-weariness to the eldest sister and the constant sag in her shoulders well communicated the terrible burden weighing upon her. Holder’s Lenny is actually the play’s unsung hero. Lenny is the glue that holds her family together. She has remained at home to care for their grandfather who is implied to be an uncaring sort and had to be a mother to her two younger sisters after their real mother committed suicide. My heart went out to her as she constantly sacrificed her own chances at happiness to help someone else and I silently cheered when she began taking the small steps to regain control of her own life.
Meg Magrath is a self-centered, conniving brat. It’s a rich character for a performer and Natalie McGovern plays her for everything she’s worth. If all the world is a stage, then Meg certainly believes herself to be the star. McGovern brilliantly displays Meg’s egoism with a smug body language that says, “I always get my way” as she prepares for a night out with a married ex that clearly suggests she’s expecting romance. She guzzles bourbon like a pro to soothe her deep unhappiness and lies like a rug to look good to her grandfather.
For all of her unsavory qualities, Meg also has some redeeming features. She does love her sisters and is straight with them. She’s capable of kindness such as surprising her older sister with a birthday cake. McGovern does wonderful work in making these small decent seeds blossom as Meg does mature a bit throughout the run of the show.
CeCe Hastreiter is sweet and naïve as the youngest Magrath sister, Babe. Hastreiter’s Babe may seem a bit dumb, but she’s actually an innocent unwise in the ways of the world. She married at a young age and has been dominated by her thuggish husband. Hastreiter gives Babe a lovely heart of gold as she is willing to go to prison rather than explain her motivations for shooting her husband and she also lends Babe a tender fragility as she can still be broken by her hospitalized husband and practically swoons over her lawyer who shows her a kindness and respect long denied by her brutish spouse.
Aside from direction, Kevin Colbert also designed the set which was a lovely little two story home where the screen door and gas stove invoked memories of my grandparents’ house. The properties provided by Sheila Hansen and the cast helped make the home feel old and lived in. Janet Sorensen’s costumes helped solidify the characters with clothing that suited their personalities such as Lenny’s simple housedress or Meg’s more vibrant and flashy dresses.
There were some minor issues in today’s performance. Projection could have been better on the parts of some actors. Energy was down and cue pickups were a bit lax in the story’s slow first act, but picked up remarkably in the more energetic second and third acts. Performers also upstaged themselves on a few occasions.
Ultimately this is a story about family and before the story ends the Magrath sisters will prove that they are a family through thick and thin.
Crimes of the Heart plays at Lofte Community Theatre through April 25. Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7pm and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets cost $24 and can be obtained at www.lofte.org, calling 402-234-2553 or e-mailing LofteTickets@gmail.com. Lofte Community Theatre is located at 15841 Manley Rd in Manley, NE.