Every spring semester, the Ursuline College English department produces a play, which is performed twice for the campus community. This year, the English department presented Snapshots by Cynthia Mercati, which featured Jasmin Montalvo, Kim O'Keefe, and Alyssa Porter. The play was directed by instructor Jenny Dunegan, M.A., M.F.A.
In 2012, Crimes of the Heart was performed. English major Lauren Krozser wrote a review of Crimes of the Heart, which you can read below:
"Strength, Solace, Sisters: Review of Ursuline’s Crimes of the Heart"
A toasty kitchen. A birthday wish. A loaded gun. A gruesome scene from long ago. It is amazing what can be transcended by the bond among three sisters. So goes the story of Crimes of the Heart, written by playwright Beth Henley and set in the small town of Hazlehurst, Mississippi, where Lenny, Meg, and Babe come face-to-face with heaven, hell, and everything in between. Wrapped in the cozy embrace of Granddaddy Magrath’s kitchen, the audience cannot see the tragedy waiting around the corner. Like a car crash, it hits suddenly and forcefully, and the protective sphere that each sister has created for herself begins to crumble. Soon each is left with no choice but to face the pain of the past in order to move toward a brighter future.
Lenny, Meg, and Babe learn to cope with their mother’s suicide in different ways, but none of their methods are very successful, and it is only a matter of time until they reach their breaking point. This occurs when Babe snaps and shoots her abusive husband, forcing each of the sisters to examine her own “crimes of the heart.” Lenny Magrath, played by Natalie Huggins, is the responsible, older sister who spends all of her time taking care of her ailing grandfather while neglecting her own well-being and need for affection. Huggins brings out the best and worst of Lenny, her best being her generous and loyal spirit, her worst being her tendency to withdraw from others. The audience rides the highs and lows of Lenny’s emotional journey, sympathizing with her when her birthday is nearly forgotten, celebrating when she finally calls her long-lost love, and laughing hysterically when she drives her cousin Chick Boyle (Liz Hammer) out of the house with a broom, defending Meg’s honor. Huggins makes it easy to love Lenny for exactly who she is.
Chick serves as a stark contrast to Lenny’s persona as she is privileged, pampered, ultra-feminine, social, and irresponsible. Even her name symbolizes this characterization. Hammer’s portrayal of Chick adds a touch of humor to the play in scenes when it is desperately needed. In fact, throughout the entire play, the line is blurred between laughter and tears as the girls continually brawl and bond. Hammer’s delivery of outlandish, over-the-top, and self-absorbed lines draws smirks from the crowd and lightens even the heaviest of scenes.
The audience connects effortlessly with the charismatic Meg, played by Haley Tinlin, who lights up the stage. Her ability to speak in an authentic southern dialect brings her character to life, and we can imagine her in a smoky lounge singing the sweet songs of the South. Tinlin allows the essence of her character to radiate through every line and not once do we question her identity as a sultry singer down on her luck. It is easy to understand the charisma of the “wannabe star” when Tinlin delivers her lines with such authenticity and presence in the moment.
The sister on whom the action of the play centers is Babe, portrayed by Alyssa Porter, who does an outstanding job expressing Babe’s complex personality. Babe’s emotions shift the entire dynamic of the play; her joy and torment can be felt all the way to the last row thanks to Porter’s exceptional acting skills. We empathize with her as she describes to lawyer Barnette Lloyd (Stephen Marra) how she shot her husband, and we watch helplessly as she nearly follows in her mother’s destructive footprints. Babe’s triumph over her troubled past and convoluted present enliven the spirits of all, and it is through the brilliance of Porter’s acting that we are able to experience such joy at her victory. Babe’s relationship with the boisterous Barnette is also a source for joy. Marra brings his own skill set to the stage and keeps the play’s pace at a steady beat. Not only does Barnette’s character advance the plot, but he serves as a beacon of hope for troubled Babe.
Crimes of the Heart is ultimately a story of three sisters and how they learn to cope with adversity by enjoying life’s little treasures--card games, birthday cake, lemonade--in each other’s company. There is no idealized ending, yet the audience leaves with a sense of hope that even the worst days can be overcome if we can find solace in the little things. The main “action” of the play is internal, stirring within each character and each member of the audience. We never see the shooting of Babe’s husband nor her mother’s suicide; the most dramatic scenes are those in which a character has a breakdown or an epiphany. This lack of traditional “action,” such as violence or natural disasters, requires actors to draw from a place deep within. This play is so touching because it draws upon the raw emotions of three women not too different from us. They have merely been placed in extreme situations, and this is when their true colors begin to shine, bright on their own but even brighter when they shine together as sisters.