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Crimes of the Heart


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A: Beth Henley Pf: 1979, Louisville Pb: 1982 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Kitchen of house in small town in Mississippi, 1970 C: 2m, 4fOn her 30th birthday, Lenora Josephine (‘Lenny’) MaGrath, a spinster looking after her elderly grandfather, awaits the return of her youngest sister Rebecca (‘Babe’, 24) from jail, where she has been taken after shooting her senator husband Zackery Botrelle in the stomach, because she ‘just didn't like his looks’. The middle sister, the flirtatious Margaret (‘Meg’, 27), flies in from Hollywood, where she is unsuccessfully trying to become a singer. Their father left them, their mother committed suicide, hanging herself and her cat, Meg had a scandalous affair with the now married Doc Porter, and Babe's crime further blackens the MaGrath name. Babe, who had a lonely marriage, brutalized by her husband, reveals that she had an affair with a 15-year-old black boy, whom Zackery attacked for no reason. It was then that she shot him. Unfortunately, Zackery's sister had hired a private detective, who photographed Babe and her lover having sex. Babe's lawyer, however, intends to strike a deal with Zackery: he will withhold information about the Senator's shady dealings, if Zackery drops the charge against Babe. Meg spends a last happy night with Doc Porter. Zackery threatens to have Babe certified, and she makes futile efforts to kill herself. Grandfather is dying; so Lenny plucks up courage to get in touch with an old boyfriend. Finally, the three sisters happily eat birthday cake together.

A: Beth Henley Pf: 1979, Louisville Pb: 1982 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Kitchen of house in small town in Mississippi, 1970 C: 2m, 4f

This is Henley's most successful play, offering her usual blend of farce and seriousness. With obvious echoes of Chekhov's Three Sisters, it offers an insight into the frustrations and yearnings of modern women, relieved by female solidarity, which ultimately overcomes all ‘crimes of the heart’.

Subjects: Theatre — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Beth Henley (b. 1952)


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