Kat Moraros, Heather Irish and Casey Turner in “Crimes of the Heart” at Good Theater. Photo by Steve Underwood

For their first production of 2023, the folks at Good Theater have reached back a few years for a Pulitzer Prize-winning play that feels just about right for any weary theatergoer hoping to enjoy the pleasures of a vintage show.

Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart,” which opened in New York in 1980, is perhaps best known to many for a star-studded 1986 film version. The comedy/drama has also had a few noteworthy stage revivals over the years.

Good Theater maestro Brian P. Allen, who directs this highly entertaining production, has assembled a more than worthy cast of local regulars, three of whom memorably appeared in last season’s well-received production of “Significant Other” at the same venue.

Set in Mississippi, “Crimes” has the sort of Southern fried flavor that has long appealed to audiences who like comedy enhanced by some dark shadowing. Hilarious wise cracks and woeful laments mingle freely as Henley’s warmly folksy and at times strikingly flaky sisters live through a difficult time in their lives.

The three Magrath sisters convene around a kitchen table to confront old memories of abandonment by their father and their mother’s subsequent suicide. The sisters’ apparent (what we now might call) PTSD lingers, affecting any hopes they have for a bright future.

New challenges also include the fact that their grandfather, who raised them, is dying.
After some halting attempts at romance, oldest sister Lenny (Kat Moraros), who just turned 30, fears that life has passed her by. Middle sister Meg (Casey Turner) tries to reconcile a failed singing career and a sketchy reputation with her outsize personality. Youngest sister Babe (Heather Irish) has a more pressing problem. She has just shot her husband and the law is closing in.


Seeing the three exceptional actors, not-too-thick Southern accents at the ready, lighting up these rich roles is impressive. They bring a sense of sisterhood, albeit sometimes awkwardly and angrily expressed, through the exposition of each character’s sometimes harrowing journey to and through the two days in 1974 in which the play takes place.

Moraros’ frustrated worrier Lenny, Turners’ emotionally quick-changing Meg, and Irish’s libidinous mess Babe all present riveting moments in the spotlight as well as in smaller exchanges full of laughs and tears.

Filling out the cast are Molly Frantzen as judgmental cousin Chick, Dalton Kimball as the jilted but not defeated suitor Doc, and Thomas Ian Campbell as the not completely buttoned up attorney Barnette. The three ably add comedic colors to the sister’s trials while also setting a social nexus for the action.

Director Allen has established a dynamic flow to the more frantic episodes while delicately calming things down for the more touching moments in the two-hour production. Steve Underwood’s set design places it all in the kind of downhome domestic environment within which lives and loves play out.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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