Tag: Laura Pels Theatre

Crimes, chills, thrills

Sunday, January 20th, 2008 | All Things, Arts

Actress Kathleen Turner has been generating a lot of buzz recently for her upcoming autobiography Send Yourself Roses (currently excerpted in the UK’s Daily Mail), in which she dishes on former co-stars including William Hurt, Michael Dougles, Nicolas Cage and Burt Reynolds. J and I saw Turner — a whole lot of her — when she performed “Mrs. Robinson” in the 2002 Broadway staging of The Graduate. Meh. This time, though, Turner is behind the scenes in her New York directorial debut: an Off-Broadway revival of Crimes of the Heart at the Laura Pels Theatre. (It was her commanding, husky voice that warned everyone to turn off their cell phones before the curtain rose. Her mildly threatening tone incited some nervous laughter, but not one ringer went off during the performance.)

Crimes of the Heart

Playwright Beth Henley won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama after Crimes of the Heart was produced off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club for a limited, sold-out, engagement of 32 performance, making it the first play ever to win before opening on Broadway. (It transfered in November 1981, and went on to also win the New York Drama Critics’ Circle award for best new American play.) Henley also wrote the screenplay for the well-loved 1986 film version starring Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek, which garnered three Academy Award nominations, including one for Henley’s adaptation.

I’d never seen the play or the movie: a Southern family melodrama revolving around three sisters as they convene at the family estate in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. In addition to having grown up in the shadow of their mother’s suicide, each faces her own personal tragedy: the eldest, Lenny (Jennifer Dundas), is marking her 30th birthday and facing the prospect of life as an infertile spinster; Meg (Sarah Paulson), once known as the town tramp, has a sputtering career as a singer/actress in Hollywood; the youngest, “Babe” (Lily Rabe), is in jail for shooting her abusive, state senator husband. Abandonment, broken dreams, domestic violence, adultery, interracial relations, attempted murder… all of which takes place before the curtain even rises. And yet, despite the decidedly dark and emotionally heavy subject matter, and its characters who are at turns kooky and sympathetic, the play’s general tone is warm and humorous, and it stands as a testament to the strength of family.

The performances were solid throughout: most of the cast originated their roles in the recent Williamstown Theatre Festival production. Previews began on Friday, and based on this performance, there may be a few pacing adjustments to make before the official opening on February 7. Rabe, who was injured in rehearsals, did not perform the first weekend; in her place, understudy Jessica Cummings went on as the youngest McGrath sister, and turned in an impressive performance in her New York theatrical debut.

Crimes of the Heart

Check out more photos of the Crimes of the Heart cast and set here.

In other New York theater news: after glowing reviews in the The Times, The Sun, and The Wall Street Journal, the Classic Stage Company’s production of New Jerusalem has been extended through February 10. Talented actor Jeremy Strong (who played Spinoza) is set to star in the upcoming film, Humboldt County.

The temperatures were dropping steadily, and I hurried home through the bitter chill after the performance. Later that night, while reading in the cozy confines of my living room, I heard what sounded like my entire building erupt into spontaneous cheers.

w00t! The Giants are going to the Super Bowl!

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