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Crimes of the Heart

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  4,651 ratings  ·  61 reviews
This drama in three acts won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1981. Set in a small Mississippi town, the play examines the lives of three quirky sisters who have gathered at the home of the youngest. During the course of the work the sisters unearth grudges, criticize each other, reminisce about their family life, and attempt to understand their mother's suicide years earli ...more
Paperback, 106 pages
Published June 1st 1982 by Dramatists Play Service (first published 1982)
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A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee WilliamsThe Crucible by Arthur MillerDeath of a Salesman by Arthur MillerThe Glass Menagerie by Tennessee WilliamsWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
Best American Plays
52nd out of 182 books — 261 voters
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Best Play Ever
121st out of 422 books — 363 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Daniel
So schticky, I love it. Characters sticking heads in ovens because of a bad day, a woman shooting her husband because she didn't like his looks, an inexperienced lawyer claiming to be qualified to take the murder case because of a personal vendetta, characters laughing uncontrollably when they hear horrible news--it's as if this whole play was devised on the spot by a group of actors, and Beth Henley just wrote it all down.

LENNY. Get out of here--
CHICK. Don't you tell me to get out! What makes
...more
amy
Jan 21, 2008 amy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: plays
Loved this play. That I played Lenny in our community theatre production of the show didn't hurt my love of it. ;-) It really is a heartwarming story of three sisters each dealing with their own personal demons and issues brought on by how they were treated when they were growing up. Although it appears to be stereotypically southern in humor and behavior, there is a depth,honesty and truth that underlies the relationships portrayed in this story/play..
Elizabeth
description

Crimes of the Heart is a truly tender read about three sisters. Meg, Babe, and Lenny are brought back together when a real life crime drama hits a little too close to home.

Meg the wild child of the sisters returns home after living "the dream" in California. She fled the small town of Hazlehurst, Mississippi in order to become a hit singer. The truth is she has long given up her career as a singer and has just finished an extended stay at the mental hospital.

Lenny the responsible sister has been
...more
Eric Mikols
I liked this one. Funny and depressing, all while being wrapped in love, no matter how distorted it gets. The three sisters are great, all different and distinct with great stories. There's a lot of hurt in this play, a lot of unforgiven pain that comes out at the drop of the hat. It was fun reading this and imagining how it would play out on stage, it has great potential to be an amazing show.
It's funny (I cracked up at the Pecan scene) and there's a great levity to the more depressing moments.
...more
Lauren
To be fair to Crimes of the Heart, I’m not a fan of dysfunctional family dramas. While I occasionally like them, I mostly find them an overused and overtired ‘genre’ and think American theatre would be stronger if they steered clear of them for at least a decade. Find a new way to be creative, playwrights. And if you must rely on a dysfunctional family, use the dysfunction as a starting point rather than the primary plot.

That’s what I thought Crimes of the Heart was going to do.

The play starts
...more
Lilia Van
I finished this play in a matter of one day. It is perhaps one of the best plays I've ever read, and that is an understatement. I could relate to it family-wise because I have 3 sisters and of course we've fought many times before and never often see each other nowadays because one sister is in med school and another in dental... But enough about me.

I was enticed from beginning to end. I was even reading it in the middle of class and got in trouble for it, but I kept reading anyway. The second a
...more
Jessica
I've always enjoyed this play, although it's difficult to perform with both humor and genuine emotion. Of course, we ruined it when we performed it in high school - but I still enjoyed the reading. (For the record, I played Meg.)
Jessica Barkl
I read this play, originally, in my junior year of high school for a scene study class I was taking with Cheryl-Ann Rossi. I remember, initially, being shocked by all the "seemingly" innocent characters being so sexual, but...now it seems normal. Age, I suppose, I was a late bloomer. Anyway, I still love the characters and it reminded me on this later read of Chekhov's THREE SISTERS. I also was surprised that the ending didn't work as well for me as it did in 1995...I didn't care as much for Bab ...more
Lyn
Crimes of the Heart, the 1981 Pulitzer prize winning play from Beth Henley was also nominated for the 1982 Tony Award for a Broadway musical. A later film adaptation featured Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek. At one level this seems like a family version of Sartre’s No Exit, as each character seemed to have created her own hell that was made worse by complex interactions with the others. A better study, though, shows the strong, resilient endurance by the sisters and their ability to ...more
Emily Art
Crimes of the Heart revolves around the lives of the three MaGrath sisters who are all from Mississippi. These sisters are as different as can be, but one thing connects them all. They all grew up in their dysfunctional family. Beth Henley’s play takes a look into the relationships between the sisters by comparing and contrasting their lives they are currently living. The play’s foundation of sisterhood, growth and the importance of family roots build upon itself to create tighter bonds than eve ...more
Pinky
The quirkiest of characters. Three southern sisters brought together after the youngest shoots her husband. Crazy, crazy stuff going on - multiple affairs and bad judgment, aging grandparents, a mom whose hung herself in the basement, tarnished reputations, pecans, chocolates and birthday cake. I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm not sure there's any meaning to this play other than the power of sisters and laughter, often inappropriate and in the midst of tragedy.
Katy
As part of my research for finding monologues to perform in acting class this semester, Crimes of the Heart was one of the few where a monologue is spoken by a young female character (such a shame).
While it was an enjoyable read, I found the language spoken by the characters a little difficult to get used to. I couldn't quite put my finger but the way the sisters interacted with each other, and Babe's personality, didn't quite mesh well for me in most scenes. Though I enjoyed how each sister was
...more
james
The ending was lacking some closure, but other than that this book was well-written and easy to read. I haven't seen the play, but the script is quite good. I loved how each character's emotions went from 0-60 quite quickly and quite realistically, and the interactions between the characters were real, honest, and fun.
Dylan Kawalec
Who do you feel most sorry for. Yes it's blunt to go with Babe, or maybe Lenny but I thing Meg has it the worst. You should read and see why. It's a thrill to read, it Has you craving each page. You want peace for these poor girls so badly. I enjoyed this one a lot.
Caitlin Mininger
Beth Henley has such an amazing touch for human relationships, and especially for genuine interactions between women who legitimately love one another. This play mixes humor and tragedy so beautifully. A must read.
Duaa Guhary
- i have loved this book , the most part i love it so much Lenny`s Wish , she hates to live or die alone and she loves her sisters and they do too although the miscommunication between them but the end they love each other i like this play because it presents alot of us :), thanks Beth Henley for this lovely play.
Nicolas
Really interesting play. It was enjoyable to read. The unique roles and relationships within would make this a great challenge for any performer. The bond of the three sisters is the core of this comedy/drama, but it works well as an ensemble piece as well. The men in the story expose another side of these sisters and provide a nice depth and change of pace to keep things interesting. In some ways the end leaves you hanging, but it seems to me that the purpose of this tale is to explore the char ...more
Rachel
Beth Henley's play seems unsure whether it wishes to be a heart warming drama or a caricature filled comedy, and in this confusion the point of the play seemed to fall through the cracks. In the process of telling the story of the reunion of three sisters in a small town in Mississippi, Crimes of the Heart sometimes shines with vivid and empathetic characterization, but too often cannot break away from cliched 'types'. The exposition was often messy, and the ending emotionally unsatisfying excep ...more
Sophia
this seriously made me laugh out loud. the characters are so outrageous and ridiculous, it's just hilarious.
Dani
Latest of many re-reads. Love this play!
Chuck O'Connor
The idiosyncratic characters, and the use of absurdism to address mental illness and tragedy, almost make up for the creaky structure. The default to clumsy expository speeches and devices however stop the forward action too often and the deus ex machina that resolves the story's central tension is disappointing. I like the characters and the themes are interesting but Henley seems unsure of a larger point and therefore falls victim to superficial plot mechanics, where she could have created mor ...more
JS
Mar 20, 2011 JS rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: plays
I saw this play at McArthur theatre in Princeton, NJ. I have to say they did a phenomenal job performing. I understand it was extremely difficult to play such crazy characters, but I think they pulled it off very well. However, as far as the play itself goes, I think it was a little too Chekhovian. I heard that the author herself had somewhat of an obsession with Chekhov, I think it influenced her quite a lot. Maybe I am reading too much in to it, but having just seen the "Three Sisters" recentl ...more
Perrie
Apr 23, 2014 Perrie marked it as to-read
need to read it
Julia Curtis
Wow, this was a lot better than I thought it would be. I had picked this out randomly at a shop in New York city, not hoping for the best. I had no idea what to expect. But it was actually worth the read!
I'm a bit of a theater geek, so I really got into the characters. Not to give any spoilers, but it had some twists in the book that I didn't expect, and I was even a bit scared at one point!
I am hoping that somewhere in the future I will be able to act in this show!
Alborz Taheri
نمایش نامه به شدت " آمریکایی " . از ریتم "بسیار " تند تا خودِ داستان تا پایان بندی نمایش نامه . نمایش نامه قصد واکاوی و عمیق کردن شخصیت ها را ندارد و صرفا قصدش نقل اتفاقاتی است که برای این سه خواهر پیش می آید و و نمایش واکنش ها و برخورد ها .. می توان این طور گفت نمایش نامه بیشتر قصد تصویر سازی دارد تا بیان یک داستان با اتفاقات شگفت آور یا بیان مسائل فلسفی و ... و همین امر سبب می شود که ارتباط برقرار کردن با نمایش نامه راحت باشد .
Neil
Three southern sisters gather when one of them loses her grip and shoots her husband. This is fun, and with good parts for women, but in retrospect, I'm not anything really transcends the usual genre wackiness of eccentric southern women dealing with dumb southern men. It would be an entertaining play, but does it say anything really important? Is it very real? I don't know.
Brandi
there is a different sense of drama here, one much more understated in action and represented mostly in reflection of past actions taken, both by characters present and those not. the sisters' interactions are as rich and intriguing as the choices they make and lives they live on their own. another quick read, also really good, and again i look forward to seeing the film.
Cassie
Nov 02, 2012 Cassie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: theatre readers
Recommended to Cassie by: Acting I class
One of the first plays I read as a new freshman to the theatre department. Great characters, not a particularly ingenious plot. It was far and away from what I understood as "typical" theatre. There's an accessibility here that may be hardpressed to find in other modern plays. I understand why its still in syllabus rotation school-wide.
Alyssa Sedillo
So sentimental I wanted vomit.
Matt
It's rare to find a story that candy coats it’s emotionally moving core with such great laugh out loud dark comedy. Beth Henley does what many playwrights wish they could do and that’s have a unique voice while getting down to the nitty-gritty of the human soul.
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