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Crimes of the Heart

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,229 Ratings  ·  69 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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Best American Plays
50th out of 196 books — 285 voters
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Community Reviews

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Sep 19, 2015 Lyn rated it really liked it
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
Jul 21, 2012 Daniel rated it really liked it
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
Jan 21, 2008 amy rated it it was amazing
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..

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
Eric Mikols
Dec 01, 2011 Eric Mikols rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scripts
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.
Jan 11, 2016 Steven rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays, women
Simmering Southern Sadness and Sisterhood
Mar 16, 2015 Lauren rated it liked it
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
Lilia Van
Feb 24, 2014 Lilia Van rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 26, 2007 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
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.)
Nov 16, 2015 TC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I saw the movie (EXTREMELY true to the play) in the theatre twice--once in a theatre only a couple hours' drive from the town where it was set, and again in California. There were lots of laughs both times, but rarely at the same lines, which to my young self was very enlightening. This play is hilarious and so Southern. Someone below described it as "schlocky," I believe, but bless his heart, because this writing is true in a way that southern gothic so often is. We ALL know a Chick around here ...more
Jessica Barkl
Sep 06, 2011 Jessica Barkl rated it really liked it
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, 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
Emily Art
Apr 23, 2013 Emily Art rated it liked it
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
Jun 07, 2015 Pinky rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-15
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.
Jayne Furlong
This play is a beautiful exploration of family dynamics. Well written story with a great American gothic feel. Very interesting characters... I love stories like this, that make you really experience each character's emotions and struggles. There are so many memorable moments that made me laugh yet also feel the immense sadness each character carries with them. This plot is just strange enough to be completely believable :)
Sep 01, 2012 Katy rated it liked it
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
Apr 08, 2014 james rated it it was amazing
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
May 05, 2015 Dylan Kawalec rated it it was amazing
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.
May 28, 2016 Allison rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-books
What a great way to spend my morning! I saw a scene from this play performed recently and just had to read the play. Hilarious, heart-wrenching, and more hilarious. I'd love to see the whole play performed.
Duaa Guhary
Jan 24, 2014 Duaa Guhary rated it liked it
- 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. ...more
Sep 20, 2013 Nicolas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, scripts
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
May 07, 2016 Rachel rated it liked it
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
Jun 17, 2014 Sophia rated it really liked it
this seriously made me laugh out loud. the characters are so outrageous and ridiculous, it's just hilarious.
Alexis Abbott
Jan 19, 2016 Alexis Abbott rated it really liked it
The story was great but I felt it was more of a drama than a comedy even though there was a somewhat happy ending.
Corey McEuin
Oct 07, 2015 Corey McEuin rated it liked it
Shelves: currently-own
To be honest, I really didn't care much about what was going on in this play.
Dec 07, 2014 Dani rated it it was amazing
Latest of many re-reads. Love this play!
Chuck O'Connor
May 21, 2013 Chuck O'Connor rated it liked it
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
Mar 20, 2011 J. rated it it was ok
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
Apr 23, 2014 Perrie marked it as to-read
need to read it
Julia Curtis
Aug 16, 2011 Julia Curtis rated it really liked it
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!
Sep 09, 2015 Erica rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
Read this over a few sittings today and absolutely loved it! The characters really jump off the page and into your heart. I'm playing Babe in a production of this in the fall and now I'm so excited for rehearsals to start. It'd a very heartwarming, funny, and dark play that really shows such a deep love between these sisters who are all struggling with their own demons. It made me tear up and laugh out loud and that is the sign of a good piece of theater.
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