Missouri State University Theatre & Dance opens its 2019-2020 season with the “Southern Gothic” comedy "Crimes of the Heart" by Beth Henley. Directed by Dr. Carol Maples, the production runs through Oct.1st in the Craig Hall Balcony Theatre: weeknights at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:30pm. Cast member Cary Wahlborg joined us on “Arts News.”
Wahlborg plays Meg Magrath, the second oldest sister in the Magrath family of Hazelhurst, Mississippi. She and her siblings have come home and reunited for the first time in five years, but not necessarily for a good reason. “Their littlest sister Babe has just shot her husband,” said Wahlborg with a laugh, “so (the play) kind of goes through how they’re dealing with this whole situation.”
All three have issues; Babe is out on bail after shooting and wounding her husband; middle sister Lenny has put her own life on hold to care for cantankerous “Old Granddaddy,” who lies dying in a local hospital; and Meg’s professional singing career in Hollywood is a bust. “It’s not been going so well for her,” said Wahlborg. Meanwhile, the sisters’ self-righteous cousin Chick is only too happy to point out where everyone in the family has gone wrong—especially the three sisters. Chick is “always sticking her nose in everyone’s business,” according to Cary Wahlborg. Old resentments simmer, and passions bubble up, in the Magrath family kitchen.
She said Henley’s story delves into the “comedy in Southern families.” But the play is mostly concerned with the characters’ efforts to both escape their past and move forward, “the things we have to go through, and how we get through them with family and reconnecting.”
Wahlborg said she feels the key to understanding the play’s message is right in the title, “Crimes of the Heart,” and its description as a “Southern Gothic comedy.” “The whole play mixes a lot of comedy and dark humor.”
The play contains mild language and adult themes—“nothing too crazy,” Wahlborg assured us, “but definitely be sure to watch out for that. But I think it’s a wonderful show—Beth Henley has really created something that has stood the test of time.” “Crimes of the Heart” won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. I mentioned MSU Theatre and Dance alum Tess Harper, who played Chick in the movie version—she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance (not an “Emmy” as I said on the air… well, I’d just been interviewing Steve Grant about the Mid-America Emmy Foundation right before this interview, and evidently had “Emmy” on the brain!).
The production opened Thursday night, and Cary Wahlborg said she and the rest of the cast were thrilled to finally have an audience in the house “for people to see what we’ve been working on… just getting closer to opening night, we were ready to have people watching it and reacting, so we’re very excited.”
There is no late seating in the Balcony Theatre. Tickets are $12 and $14; MSU students with ID get an $8 ticket price, but they must be purchased in advance. For tickets call 836-7678 or missouristatetix.com. For information on the MSU Theatre and Dance season visit https://theatreanddance.missouristate.edu.