It’s a story of three sisters, raised together in a dysfunctional family, who are reunited after their grandfather becomes hospitalized. But once they’re back sharing the same roof, they realize, this is just the start of their problems.
It may sound like a heavy story, but actress Maggie Chestovich, who plays sister Lenny, reassures us, it’s plenty funny, relatable and strangely full of joy.
Crimes of the Heart, now playing at the Guthrie Theater, follows the emotional journey of the Magrath sisters, who are forced to face the consequences of their own secret acts of misconduct.
Chestovich was kind enough to chat with us about the play, her new stage sisters and more.
Read the full Q&A below.
With a play like this, obviously the chemistry between the three sisters is huge. What did you do to get into that sisterly vibe?
You know, it’s really interesting. I don’t have a sister in real life and I’ve never been in a play before where I’ve had to have such a strong bond with my co-actors. I really credit the director, Marcela Lorca, who not only cast this play impeccably — each of the actors inhabits their characters so beautifully and so fully and so perfectly — that we all bring this unique energy of these characters together.
The play is very well written, so all of the characters are really well defined. It’s beautifully written so that all the bonding just kind of comes with the language and the action. At the same time, we didn’t really do anything to really force a bond. It was really kind of a beautiful thing where just from the beginning of rehearsal, we just loved each other. The one sister, I’ve never met her before, she’s from New York so we had never known each other but we just really became close quickly because, I think, of what the play required from us. Also, I think Marcela, the director, really created a lovely, playful, joyful rehearsal room where we played a lot of games, we sang songs and we really, as a company, just played together and were able to have a lot of fun. That’s kind of how that worked.
And this is a play that’s been done several times before, plus there’s the 1986 film with Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek. Did you take any inspiration from what’s been done before or just go into it with the intention of making it your own?
I think each of us really deal with it in different ways. We’ve all been asked that question before and one of our actors, Sarah Agnew, said she really likes to search out all those different medium, like watch the movie, see different versions, read plays, really grasp the different ways the show has been represented. And then make something of herself. Other people don’t really like to see other versions because they don’t want it to impact how they portray the character or direct the play.
I think across the board, all of us have seen the movie but … for example, Diane Keaton plays the part that I play in the movie but I could not even dream to be like Diane Keaton, you know. We’re not the same person, I don’t know her. I enjoyed her performance in the movie but you really have to bring your own joy, your own grief, your own person, your own physicality to the role. I think we all have real different ways of approaching how plays have been done before. I’ve never actually seen this play before, although I did do it in high school. But that was a long time ago. And I didn’t play Lenny, I played Babe — the youngest sister.
This play has quite the range of emotions fit into a two-and-a-half-hour span. What is it like for you to go through that night after night?
Well, you know, we’ve just started so we’ve just really started the performances but the last couple of weeks have been hard. We’ve been rehearsing during the day and then performing at night so it’s been really long days. We were there from noon until 10 p.m. every day. It’s very exhausting. But you know, we just started on Friday. …
But really, the way the play is arched, it really starts kind of slow. So you kind of start in this calmer place where there’s a lot of tension and a lot of worry and upset and maybe anxiety but it really builds and builds into this climax and then it comes back to this really joyful, open place. You just kind of have to let yourself go for the ride. I will say it’s quite draining, emotionally. It’s quite hard. You just really have to put yourself out there. But it’s also really fun. I’ve never had so much fun on stage. I’ve never been a part of a play where I feel so much love and so much support. And so much joy in the air. The beautiful thing about the show is that even within all the drama and the tears and the pain, there’s so much laughter. There’s so much hilarity. That’s why they call it a black comedy — in some ways that pain is funny. It’s hard and challenging but it’s also really rewarding. There’s moments in the show where I’m crying but I want people to laugh and if they don’t laugh, I feel kind of bad. I’m like, ‘Yay, they laughed.’
What kind of audience feedback have you gotten so far from this show? What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve heard?
You know, I haven’t been able to speak to too many audience members. I know they had a talkback on Sunday but I wasn’t able to attend. But castmates were saying that a lot of people have said that they want to come back. They want to see it again. They identify with the characters, they identify with these situations, they relate to them, they were surprised by the show. One friend told me that he’s never sat at the Guthrie and heard people laughing so much. And this is from men and women … As I said (in the video above) it’s rare to have a show that’s so female centric but across the board, men have been moved and touched by the show as well. I think people are just really enjoying it and relating to it and wanting to come back.
So just for fun, since we’re talking about a show so focused on the bonds of sisterhood, if you could be a part of any famous family (TV, movie, celebrity), what family would you choose?
Oh my gosh. Oh gosh. You know what the first thing that pops in my mind is? This is kind of embarrassing but my husband and I watch the show, Parenthood and we watch it all the time. And I love that show. And it’s kind of the same thing in a way, where it’s just this family and they all go off and do their own thing but they always come back together. It’s like this play. And they have that home they all come back to. They all have their past and they all confront their future. But I think I would like to be on that show. Yeah, be a Braverman sister. Isn’t that cheesy?
You can see Chestovich in Crimes of the Heart, from now until June 15 at the Guthrie Theater. For more information or to buy tickets, click here.