By Daniel Skora
There’s so much that’s gone wrong in the MaGrath Family that you wonder how they’ve managed to hold on to their sanity all these years. Well, some It would appear, actually haven’t. First, the father went off and deserted his family. Then mother MaGrath committed suicide, hanging herself along with the cat because she didn’t want to die alone. That left the three MaGrath daughters alone so they were sent packing to Mississippi where they were raised by their grandparents. Old Grandaddy now lies in a hospital, suffering from the debilitating effects of a stroke. His hospitalization has brought the three sisters together in “Crimes of the Heart”, currently being presented at the Puzzle Piece Theatre.
This latest generation of the MaGrath family is not fairing much better than the previous. Lenny (Kaitlyn Valor Bourque), the oldest, has done her best trying to keep the family on an even keel. But she’s turning 30 and the hot breath of spinsterhood is breathing at her back. It doesn’t help that her one shrunken ovary scares away eligible men who might have an eye towards raising a family after they’re married.
Meg (Allison Megroet), the middle child, had dreams of stardom when she headed out to Hollywood, but all she got for her troubles with was a stint in a psychiatric ward and a job clerking at a dog food store. A floozy by heart, she no qualms about taking up where she left off with her old boyfriend, Doc Porter (Joe Hamid) who’s now married. Babe (Lauren Alo), the youngest, is out on bail for having shot her abusive husband. In taking her case, the lawyer Barnette Lloyd (Steve Xander Carson) has interests in mind other than seeing that justice is done. He has always admired Babe while holding a political vendetta against her husband. Rounding out the play’s cast of characters is Chick (Taylor Morrow) as the sisters’ gossipy cousin who makes occasional preachy interludes into the play.
“Crimes of the Heart” has the feel of a Tennessee Williams play with a touch more humor. First performed in 1979, it won a Pulitzer Prize in drama for Henley in 1981. The play has always been a showcase for female actors, and the Puzzle Piece’s production is no exception. Bourque, Megroet, and Alo, along with Morrow, turn in accomplished performances and work together well. Here, all roads lead back to Lenny, who’s held the homestead together while the other sisters have gone off doing their own thing. She’s certainly the character who evokes the most sympathy. She’s made her own ‘birthday cake’ using a candle stuck to the creamy half of an Oreo. And the only gift she received, a box of chocolates that was clearly labeled ‘creams only’, got sampled, every last piece, by Meg who was looking for one with nuts. All four actresses are well cast and do an admiral job with their southern accents.
“Crimes of the Heart” Is a tragicomedy about a dysfunctional family in the Deep South of the 1970’s. It’s got layers of plots and situations, and though the three sisters are often at odds with each other, they have an abiding sense of forgiveness that comes from being family. The show is directed by Laura Heikkinen (Puzzle Piece Associate Artistic Director), who also does sound and costume design and shares set design credits with D.B. Schroeder (Producing Artistic Director). Schroeder is also the show’s lighting designer. Stage manager for the production is Shardai Davis.
If you haven’t yet checked out the intimate confines of the Puzzle Piece Theatre, “Crimes of the Heart” is a great show to be introduced to the kind of stimulating entertainment they’ve been putting on through five seasons. The show runs through February 18th. Tickets are available online at www.puzzlestage.org, by phone at 313.258.3885, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with number of tickets and desired performance indicated. Puzzle Piece performances are held at the Slipstream Theatre, located at 460 Hilton in Ferndale.