Monday, July 16 , 2018, 7:26 pm | Fair 72º


Gerald Carpenter: City College Theater Group Presents ‘Crimes of the Heart’

As the last production of the 2017-18 season the Santa Barbara City College Theater Group will offer Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart (1981), directed by R. Michael Gros.

The cast includes Charlotte Bailey, Leesa Beck, George Coe, Shay Munroe, Elaine Pazaski and Nicholis Sheley.
As the Theater Group describes it, Crimes of the Heart, which was awarded the 1981 Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, is a tragi-comedy:

"The scene is Hazlehurst, Mississippi, where the three Magrath sisters have gathered to await news of the family patriarch, their grandfather, who is living out his last hours in the local hospital.

"Lenny, the oldest sister, is unmarried at thirty and facing diminishing marital prospects; Meg, the middle sister, who quickly outgrew Hazlehurst, is back after a failed singing career on the West Coast; while Babe, the youngest, is out on bail after having shot her husband in the stomach."

The mixture of ribald humor and grotesque cruelty should clue us in, even without being told the setting, that we are back in the deep Gothic South so familiar from the works of Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellman, Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, and William Faulkner.

Think of the scene in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, where a man's companions set his broken leg with concrete; the reader laughs and winces at the same time.

The fact that the protagonists are women, and that Babe's husband has presumably survived her shooting him in the stomach (we automatically assume he had it coming), keeps the horror at arm's length.

The fact that they are siblings allows them to speak with each other with a frankness that would infuriate or repel a stranger.
"The South has always been the South," Brother Dave Gardner told a Southern audience. "And I don't give the North too much strength because I don't believe it is actually there: I believe that it is south of Canada. Joy to the world!

"Them folks is all right up there, they got their own gig and all, but I believe the only reason that folks live in the North is that they have jobs up there! You ain't never heard of anybody re - tiring - to the North, have ya?"

Henley's first six plays are set in the deep South, and one has the feeling that, even when she moves up to other venues, she has by no means gotten the region out of her system.

Crimes of the Heart previews April 11-12, opens April 13 and plays through April 28, in the intimate Jurkowitz Theatre on SBCC’s West Campus, 900 block of Cliff Drive.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, April 15, 21-22 and 28.

Ticket prices are: Previews $18 general, $15 seniors, $10 students; Wednesday and Thursday evenings, Saturday and Sunday matinees $24 general, $19 seniors, $14 students; Friday and Saturday evenings $26 general, $21 seniors, $17 students

Tickets can be purchased at the Garvin Theatre Box Office, 965-5935 or online at
The Jurkowitz Theatre is wheelchair accessible and has assisted listening headsets. Parking is free and near the theater.  Due to the intimate nature of the theatre, no late seating is permitted.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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