Down Art Avenue: ‘Crimes of the Heart’ opens February 7
by Hervey Folsom
Special to The Jacksonville News
Jacksonville actors from the university and community have taken the stage for numerous Jacksonville State University productions. In CAST Theatre’s archives, name after name from Jacksonville, too, appears in the printed programs.

On a larger scale, our next door state neighbor Mississippi has produced an incredible number of artists, including William Faulkner, Elvis Presley, Morgan Freeman, Eudora Welty, and John Grisham, to name a few.

Add the names Daniel King, Jr. and Rachael Walker to the Jacksonville stage power and Beth Henley to the roster of Mississippi writers, and you have an artistic combination for CAST’s next play that cannot fail to awe its audience. The tragicomedy “Crimes of the Heart “opens February 7 and ends February 17. Presented at McClellan Theatre, the shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. on the Sunday afternoons. There will be no Saturday matinees. Thursdays are “Pay What You Want” nights.

“Crimes” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981 and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play the same year. The CAST play is directed by Kim Dobbs.

King portrays Barnett, a young lawyer who tries to help a family in crisis. Walker plays Lenny, the oldest of three McGrath sisters in the family. As the curtain opens, the trio has gathered in Hazlehurst, Miss. at their grandfather’s home to discuss their problems and to decide what they must do to keep Babe, the youngest, (played by Kimberly Davenport) who has just shot her husband, from going to jail.

Babe has been abused; the other two sisters, Chick and Meg have their problems, too. It’s been a dysfunctional family. But they work through their past and finally admit, through tears, and sometimes laughter, that Babe isn’t the only guilty one; they are all three guilty of committing”crimes of the heart.”

Chick is played by Michelle Bain, Meg by Maggie Beam, and Doc. by Mike Crosby. Stage Management is handled by Kim Anthon and Kristin Anthon, and Brooke Hunter is Set Designer.

Barnette is an eccentric individual but very passionate and considerate, King said about his role. “I think the playwright gives an accurate description of isolated, strange people in the South,” he added. “The play is very effective. I’d call it darkly humorous.” King, A JSU senior, was seen in “The Shape of Things,” “Dead Towns of Alabama,” and “Relatively Speaking” at the university and, this fall, as Brick in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at CAST.

Lenny is turning 30 years old at this meeting time, she’s unmarried, and remains at home to take care of her sickly grandfather. Her crime, perhaps, was one committed against herself. “She was terrified to make a life for herself and now it may be too late.” Walker explains. And about the plot:”I don’t think there’s a family that can’t relate to this jealously, dissension and crisis on some level.”

Walker has had roles as a townsperson in “It’s A Wonderful Life” and a clown “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way of the Forum” at CAST. Even though Sister Woman in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” was a key supporting role, Lenny’s personality is the most challenging assignment so far, she says.

Beth Henley

Henley’s father was from Hazlehurst. The actress and dramatist, who lives in Los Angeles, but grew up in Jackson, Miss. comes from a theatrical family, growing up with three sisters. “This gave me a sense of the dynamics of interaction in a family of all girls as children,” she said in an interview this week. She has written at least eight more plays for the stage as well as some screenplays. The review for the film version of “Crimes” described her as a new breed of writers dedicated preserving regional voices on stge.

The writer has a new play, set in 1964, “The Jacksonian” that had its world premiere last year at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Her play in development, “Laugh” will be discussed

at a workshop at The Manhattan Theatre Club this year.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students. Group rates are available. Call CAST at 256 820-CAST. Contributors may call 256 294-1644 to ask about preferred seating.
© 2013