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Review: Jobsite Theater scores with ‘Crimes of the Heart’

BY JOANNE MILANI
Tribune correspondent

Published:

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“Crimes of the Heart,” the current Jobsite production, is like a good shot of bourbon: sweet on the tongue until you feel the knockout punch.

Written by Jackson, Miss., native Beth Henley, this play centers on the frustrated lives of the three Magrath sisters in a small Mississippi town.

Lenny, marking yet another birthday, grieves for her lost youth and disappearing chances for romance. Meg, a small-time singer, has given up on her Hollywood dreams. Babe, who married a wealthy local powerbroker, has just shot him in the stomach and faces a prison term.

Add to their torments their memories of their mother, who hanged herself along with the household cat, a grandfather who is dying in a hospital and Chick, their trash-mouthed cousin from hell.

“Meg, you are nothing but a low-class tramp!” screeches Chick as she prances through the house full of loudmouthed hate and narrow self-satisfaction.

No wonder this play has been described as “Southern Gothic”!

As the sisters’ childhood euphoria dissolves into the mean hangovers of adulthood, the sisters squabble and hug, fight and embrace. Their deep feelings for one another help them deal with their fates.

“Crimes of the Heart,” which garnered Henley the 1981 Pulitzer Prize, veers between farce and tragedy, between Paula Deen’s sugar-coated manners and William Faulkner’s Southern-rooted nightmares.

The gentlest touches here come from two lovesick men: Doc Porter, a local boy thrown over by the ambitious Meg, and Barnette Lloyd, a lawyer with a score to settle with Babe’s husband. He also has a weakness for Babe.

Jobsite’s cast delivers well-honed performances, from Katie Castonguay’s anguished Babe to the quiet grief of Christen Hailey’s Lenny. Katrina Stevenson tears through the stage like a hurricane as Meg, and you will want to throw a punch at Christina Jane Capehart’s wonderfully obnoxious Chick.

Christopher Rutherford as Doc Porter has a strong, effective stage presence. He and J. Elijah Cho are able to ground the play, providing calm and stability against the sisters’ high-flying feelings.

If there is a problem with this delightful production, it comes with the rhythm of the action. The pacing is slow in the first act and stumbles a little in the second. That can be partly from opening night jitters, from the script itself and from directors Kari Goetz and Jaime Giangrande-Holcom.

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