The Theater Department’s first fall mainstage production is a dark comedy that explores the strength of family ties.
“Crimes of the Heart” will run in Parker Theatre from Thursday, Oct. 11 through Sunday, Oct. 14 and Thursday, Oct. 18 through Sunday, Oct. 21.
Set in Hazlehurst, Miss., the play tells the story of three sisters, Babe, Meg and Lenny, who reunite after five years of separation.
Director Connie Rotunda said the play, while dealing with dark emotions, has a light momentum that can carry the actors through if they let it.
The three sisters endured loss and abandonment in their youth and come together after their youngest sister, Babe, shoots her abusive husband. Despite the serious subject matter, the reunion remains hopeful as the sisters bond and relieve painful experiences through different perspectives.
Brittany Martel, a second-year theater performance and psychology double major, said the role of Lenny was challenging for her because it was unlike the characters she typically portrays.
“I usually play the confident woman, but my character, Lenny is a frumpy little doll,” she said. “She’s very protective of others and realizes that she doesn’t have to be so selfless.”
In constrast to Martel’s introverted character, third-year theater performance major Emma Schunk plays Meg, the extroverted middle sister, who pursued a music career in Hollywood and returns home upon the news of her sister’s crimes.
Schunk said Meg is very guarded and blocks emotions that make her feel “weak.” She said playing Meg is an exciting and sometimes exhausting challenge, because Meg’s emotionless reactions are foreign to her.
“Meg pushes the scene forward and she does it by lacking emotion and glazing over things, which is so far from how I am,” Schunk said. “It’s tiring.”
Babe, the youngest sister, is played by Jamie Kracht, a third-year theater performance major.
Kracht said Babe “lives in a fantasy world,” and, despite her painful past, she is the most hopeful character in the play, which Kracht found difficult to portray.
“Having to be someone who’s done and seen all these awful things and not let it affect her is hard,” Kracht said. “Backstage, I have to psych myself out.”
Rotunda said each character has had a crime committed to and by their hearts. She said during the rehearsal process each actor worked to discover the state, growth and evolution of their character’s heart.
“I was curious about the word ‘heart,’” Rotunda said. “Through the events of these girls’ lives, how did they organize themselves through their hearts?”
Despite the seemingly outlandish plot — complete with crimes, romance and sibling rivalry — the poignancy of the moral rings true.
“This play doesn’t revolve around who loves who or who does what, it revolves around what happens because of it,” Schunk said. “And that’s sort of how life is. It’s not about what happens that determines our future, but how we feel about it and what we do with it. You get to live with these girls. They’ve lived through and have seen horrible things and they’re still okay. They keep living and keep pushing on and it proves that it’s never over.”