Special to The Star
The Meridian Star
Auditions for Mississippi native Beth Henley's tragic comedy "Crimes of the Heart" will be held Monday and Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Meridian Little Theatre.
Performance dates are scheduled for Dec. 5-11 at the Highway 39 North playhouse.
The Pulitzer Prize winning play is about the three McGrath sisters – Meg, Babe and Lenny – who reunite at old granddady’s home in Hazlehurst after Babe shoots her abusive husband.
The trio were raised in a dysfunctional family with a penchant for ugly predicaments and each has endured her share of hardships and misery. Past resentments bubble to the surface as they are forced to deal with assorted relatives and relationships while coping with the latest incident that has disrupted their lives. Each sister is forced to face the consequences of “the crimes of the heart” she has committed. The play also includes two male characters, Doc Porter and Barnette Lloyd.
Those auditioning will be asked to read from various cuttings from the script. While it is unnecessary to come both nights, persons auditioning may be asked to do a “call back” to read again at a later time.
To work backstage, a sign-up sheet will be available both nights.
For more information, call the MLT office at (601) 482-6371 or go online meridianlittletheatre.com
Following are character descriptions:
Lenora (Lenny) Magrath
Lenny, at the age of 30, is the oldest of the three sisters. Her sisters have forgotten her birthday, only adding to her feeling of rejection. Lenny is frustrated after years of carrying heavy burdens of responsibility. Most recently, she has been caring for Old Granddaddy, sleeping on a cot in the kitchen to be near him.
Lenny loves her sisters but is also jealous of them, especially Meg, whom she feels received preferential treatment during their upbringing. Meg has been surrounded by men all her life, while Lenny has feared rejection from the opposite sex and become withdrawn as a result. She fears continuing the one romantic relationship, with a man named Charlie Hill from Memphis, which has gone well for her in recent years.
While almost continuously pushed beyond the point of frustration, Lenny nevertheless has a close bond of loyalty with her sisters. The sisters' cousin Chick is constantly criticizing the family (culminating in her calling Meg a "low-class tramp"); when Lenny is finally pushed to the point that she turns on her cousin, chasing her out of the house with a broom. This is an important turning point in the play by demonstrating the ultimate strength of family bonds - and their social value – in Henley's play.
Chick, the sisters' first cousin, is 29 years old. She is a very demanding relative, extremely concerned about the community's opinion of her. When news is published of Babe's shooting of Zackery, Chick's utmost concern is how she's "gonna continue holding my head up high in this community."
Chick is critical of all aspects of the Magrath's family and is always bringing up past tragedies such as the mother's suicide. Chick is especially hard on Meg, whom she finds undisciplined and calls a "low-class tramp," and on Babe, who "doesn't understand how serious the situation is" after shooting Zackery. Chick seems to feel closest to Lenny, and is genuinely surprised to be ushered out of the house for her comments about Lenny's sisters.
Doc is 30 years old and Meg's old boyfriend. He is still known affectionately as "Doc" although his plans for a medical career stalled and eventually died after he was severely injured in Hurricane Camille. His love for Meg (and her promise to marry him) prompted him to stay behind with her while the rest of the town evacuated the storm's path. Many people now have the perception (as Meg and Lenny discuss) that Meg "baited Doc into staying there with her."
Doc, who now has his own wife and children, nevertheless remains close to the Magrath family. Although Meg abandoned him when she left for California, Doc remains fond of her, and Meg is extremely happy to have his friendship upon her return to Mississippi.
Meg is the middle sister at 27 years of age. As an 11-year-old child, Meg discovered the body of their mother (and that of the family cat) following her suicide. This traumatic experience provoked Meg to test her strength by confronting morbidity wherever she could find it, including poring over medical photographs of disease-ridden victims and staring at March of Dimes posters of crippled children.
At the beginning of the play, Meg returns to Mississippi from California, where her singing career has stalled and where, she later tells Doc, she had a nervous breakdown and ended up in the psychiatric ward of the county hospital.
The other Magrath sisters share a perception that Meg has always received preferential treatment in life. When Lenny ponders "why should Old Grandmama let her sew 12 golden jingle bells on her petticoats and us only three?" this is not a minor issue for her and Babe. The two sisters feel on some level that this special treatment has led Meg to act irresponsibly – as when she abandoned Doc, for whatever reason, after he was severely injured in the hurricane.
Lenny is angry with Meg for lying to Old Granddaddy in the hospital about her career, but Meg states "I just wasn't going to sit there and look at him all miserable and sick and sad!" Both Babe and Lenny are concerned when Meg disappears with Doc her first night back in Mississippi. Both sisters, however – especially Lenny – are also protective of Meg, especially from the attacks of their cousin Chick.
Rebecca (Babe) Botrelle
Babe is the youngest Magrath sister at the age of 24. At the start of the play, she has shot her husband, Zackery, a powerful and wealthy lawyer. At first, the only explanation she gives for the act is the defiant statement: "I didn't like his looks! I just didn't like his stinking looks!" Eventually, she reveals that the shooting was the result of her anger at Zackery's cruel treatment both of her and of Willie Jay, a 15-year-old African-American boy with whom Babe had been carrying on an affair.
Babe makes two attempts to kill herself late in the play. After being rescued by Meg, Babe appears enlightened and at peace with her mother's suicide. Babe says she understands why their mother hanged the family cat along with herself; not because she hated it but because she loved it and "was afraid of dying all alone."
Barnette Lloyd, at the age of 26, is Babe's lawyer. An ambitious, talented attorney, Barnette views Babe's case as a chance to exact
his personal revenge on Zackery. "The major thing he did," Barnette says, "was to ruin my father's life." Barnette also seems to have a strong attraction to Babe, whom he remembers distinctly from a chance meeting at a Christmas bazaar.
Barnette is prevented from taking on Zackery in open court by the desire to protect Babe's affair with Willie Jay from public exposure. He is willing to make this sacrifice for Babe, and the play ends with some hope that his efforts will be rewarded.