Tuesday, April 2, 2019

REVIEW: "Crimes of the Heart" at CATS Playhouse

by Sadie Nickerson

What is your favorite classic television show? Are you an I Love Lucy fan? Perhaps MASH or The Brady Bunch come to mind. Watching shows like those may make us yearn for simpler times and a sense of wholesomeness. However, if one only gives them a second glance, the sexism and problematic portrayal of gender roles quickly reveal themselves. Decades later, much of our current society has not improved these attitudes. Beth Henley may have written Crimes of the Heart in 1986, but its focus on domestic abuse and female mental health make it topically relevant for audiences in the age of “Me Too”. Children and Adults Theatrical Studio (CATS Playhouse) made an astute choice when selecting it for their 2018-2019 season.

Crimes of the Heart centers around the three Magrath sisters: Lenny, the eldest and self-proclaimed spinster, Meg, the disillusioned dreamer, and Babe, the beautiful but unstable heroine. The sisters lost their mother to suicide at a young age and now must deal with the fact that Babe may be headed down a similar path. However, Babe has not attempted to kill herself, but has instead shot her husband for no reason beyond the fact that she “didn’t like his looks.” The truths later revealed are far darker than the childlike love and innocence that actress Amber Terpening infuses the role with. James Hutton gives a standout performance as the loveable lawyer with a vendetta, Barnette Lloyd. From the moment he first struts into the Magrath home, Hutton brings to the stage a beautiful intensity that is punctuated with distinct physical choices. His endearing awkwardness lightens the mood and brings the comedy back to this drama.

The theater space lends itself well to producing intimate shows such as this one. The set, designed by Ginny Case, Chris Davis, and Izzy Klafka, is easily recognizable as a classic 1970’s style kitchen. As I sat down in the third row, I could see the detail in the patterns on the bowls, and, when the characters opened the refrigerator, I could hear it humming. The orange flowers and peach wash of the lights made me nostalgic for classic homes and television dinners. Director, Izzy Klafka, took a risk when they chose to stage all the action behind the proscenium arch. However, instead of flattening the play, this choice gives the appearance of watching a television screen instead of a play. It is as if an audience is witnessing a classic movie played out by live actors, and this dynamic only works to bring one farther into the show’s world.

While the writing deals with serious subject matter, the heart and love between the sisters keeps it from becoming merely a tragedy. Mickie Klafka, Ginny Case, and Amber Terpening share a tangible bond that brings a beautiful honesty to their portrayals of the characters. Anyone who has a sister will laugh at their petty fights, smile through their memories, and cry through their shared trials. As the show nears its end, the sisters resolve to find a happiness that makes the hard times worth pushing through. This message leaves an audience with a sense of hope that burns long after Lenny has blown out her birthday candles, and it makes this show a beautiful one to witness.

Crimes of the Heart continues through April 13 at CATS Playhouse, 2257 34th Street in Lubbock. For tickets and more information, call the box office at 806-503-4036, or visit their website.


  1. So eloquent and the show sounds amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your review and experince