THEATER REVIEW | "Crimes of the Heart" tugs at the heartstrings at the Guthrie Theater

Chick Boyle (Sarah Agnew, right) explains all the things wrong with the Magrath sisters to Lenny Magrath (Maggie Chestovich). Photo courtesy of the Guthrie Theater

Crimes of the Heart is an emotional rollercoaster. Given its starting premise that Babe (Ashley Rose Montondo) has shot her long-time husband and refuses to disclose why, this is not surprising. What is more surprising is the engrossing siblings' narrative that threads through the larger story. Attempted murder is nothing to sniff at, but it's often backgrounded by the emotional assaults that Babe and her sisters Lenny (Maggie Chestovich) and Meg (Georgia Cohen) inflict on each other – both intentionally and accidentally.

Verismo is the dominating aesthetic; a particular strength of the production is how well the six-person cast exudes their shared histories that are only partly revealed by the script (though there are revelations and disclosures aplenty). There are no weak players in this cast, but if there was an Ivey for Best Onstage Siblings, the Montondo-Chestovich-Cohen trio would be a surefire nominee. They are joined by Chick Boyle (Sarah Agnew), their nosy and highly opinionated cousin; Doc Porter (Sam Bardwell), a onetime love interest; and Barnette Lloyd, a defense attorney. Although these latter characters flit in and out of the larger sibling drama, their appearances are memorable.

The action takes place in and around a beautiful, sometimes wispy skeleton of a house designed by James Youmans. This house is full in form and filled with virtual and actual windows that let action spill easily into the upstage and downstage yards; it fills much of the stage at Wurtele Thrust without overly dominating the scene. The use of translucent structural elements for some portions is a nice and unusual visual touch that adds nicely to the sense of the house (and the play's events) operating in a larger space.

Family reunions in times of crisis being what they are, the titular crimes of the heart are far more numerous than they first appear – and sometimes long-buried. Beth Henley's script is engaging, new developments and revelations come quickly, and two and a half hours pass in a much shorter-seeming span of time. The production tugs at heartstrings in the same breaths as it provokes chuckles and uproarious laughter.

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.


"Crimes of the Heart" at the Guthrie Theater

05/03/2014 (All day) - 06/15/2014 (All day)

In this deeply touching Southern Gothic comedy, three young sisters reunite in their Mississippi hometown to await news of their hospitalized grandfather -- and that's just the start of their very bad day. With emotional troubles in the past and immediate troubles with the law, each of the dysfunctional Magrath sisters is forced to face the consequences of her crimes of the heart. Imaginative and hilarious, unpredictable and moving, this play is a contemporary classic, honoring playwright Beth Henley with both a Pulitzer Prize and a New York Drama Critics Circle Award -- and later becoming an Academy Award-nominated film starring Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek. The New York Post noted, "It has heart, wit and a surprisingly zany passion that must carry all before it ... it would certainly be a crime for anyone interested in theater to not see this play."

818 S. 2nd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55415
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Basil Considine's picture
Basil Considine


Basil Considine is the resident Classical Music and Drama Critic at the Twin Cities Daily Planet. An opera clinician and scenes coach, he holds a PhD in Music and Drama from Boston University. He is the Artistic Director of Really Spicy Opera and the the Regional Governor of the National Opera Association's North Central Region.