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Crimes of the Heart Review

Give and Take

Address: 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Barn Theatre, Marin Art & Garden Center
Ross, CA 94957
Phone: 415-456-9555  ext. 1


Chandler Parrot-Thomas as Meg and Jensen Power as Lenny in Beth Henley's prize-winning play Crimes of the Heart.

Review: Judith M. Wilson

Photographs: Robin Jackson

Why people hurt those who care about them most is one of life’s mysteries. Recklessness, mistaken assumptions, even fear are possibilities, but whatever the cause, it seems to be an inescapable part of the human condition. Playwright Beth Henley explores the phenomenon in Crimes of the Heart, Ross Valley Players’ current production at the Barn Theatre, and while she shows the impact of hurtful acts, she also makes it clear that the pain one inflicts is rarely simple, and solutions are often elusive. “At different times, we all commit our own crimes of the heart,” says director Patricks Nims, and not everything gets better or has a resolution.

The story takes place in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, in the fall of 1972, five years after a disastrous hurricane. It revolves around the Magrath sisters, Lenny, Meg and Babe, who gather at the family home, after their grandfather is hospitalized in failing health. Adding complications, it’s Lenny’s birthday, which she doesn’t expect her sisters to remember, and a scandalous act involving Babe is the talk of the town. Jensen Power plays Lenny Magrath, 30, as the oldest and most level-headed sister, but she also is the most solitary, and Powers eventually lets her insecurities show. Chandler Parrot-Thomas is Meg, 27, the impulsive middle sister, who left home for Los Angeles with big ideas but few results, and she’s the most flamboyant and headstrong. Margaret Grace Hee portrays the youngest sister, Babe Botrelle, 24, around whom much of the action revolves, because she’s committed a criminal act. At first, she seems to be something of an immature airhead who doesn’t take her situation seriously, but as secrets emerge, it becomes clear that more lies beneath the surface. Each woman is a clearly-drawn individual who’s on her own personal journey, as she tries to make sense of the things she’s done and find a way to move forward, while family relationships also come into play and help define her. (Photo: l. to r., Meg, Lenny and Babe)

Caitlin Strom-Martin as Chick Boyle

Caitlin-Strom-Martin plays Chick Boyle, the Magrath sisters’ cousin, as a stereotypical southern belle, who’s more concerned about how people will perceive her than Babe’s predicament. Jeremy Judge (left, with Babe) is Barnette Lloyd, Babe’s lawyer, and he portrays him as well-meaning young man with his own motives, who finds he’s dealing with a more complicated case than he expected. Michel Harris plays Doc Porter, Meg’s old boyfriend, who’s accepted a life-changing event that occurred during the hurricane and reinvented his life to follow a life different to the one he envisioned. The focus of the play is on character, and the various interactions show just how easy it is to hurt someone else, whether thoughtlessly or through deliberate actions. The emotional pain can linger, breeding resentment and anger, but Henley also shows the power of forgiveness and its importance for the giver as well as the receiver.

Michel Harris (l.) as Doc Porter and Jensen Power as Lenny Magrath

The play takes place in the early 1970s, and the design team, with set design by Ron Krempetz, pays attention to details, creating a strong sense of time and place. Michael A. Berg’s costumes also are true to the era, with Nim’s describing them as “Lovely fashions from the early ‘70s that we all try to forget.”

Henley won a Putlitzer Prize for Crimes of the Heart, when she was 29. It’s a story about love, honor and forgiveness that looks at the complexity of human emotions and how they sometimes drive the heart to commit acts that are inexplicable. Ross Valley Players offers a well-honed production with engaging characters and themes that are timeless.


Crimes of the Heart is the last play in the 2018-2019 season, and it runs through August 11. For tickets or more information, go to www.rossvalleyplayers.com or call 415-456-9555.

Ross Valley Players’ 90th Season, 2029-2020

• The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie, September 13 to October 13.

• She Loves Me, a special co-production with the Mountain Play, November 14 to December 22

• Silent Sky by Laura Gunderson, January 17 to February 9.

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, March 6 to April 5

RAW Spring Festival, featuring The Packrat Gene by Margy Kahn, April 23 to May 10

The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol, June 5 to June 28

Pride & Prejudice, the Musical, adapted from Jane Austen by Josie Brown with music and lyrics by Rita Abrams, July 24 to August 23

90thAnniversary Gala

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Seated dinner, Live and Silent Auctions, Entertainment, More