Mental illness, depression, abuse and suicide aren’t what most would consider light-hearted themes. However, Masque and Gown wants to blur the lines between serious and comedic with its fall production of “Crimes of the Heart.”

“Crimes of the Heart” is the tale of three sisters, Lenny, Meg and Babe. The play opens with the three meeting in their childhood home in Mississippi for the first time in many years. Lenny has grown tired and depressed from the weight of familial responsibilities that she has inherited as the oldest sister. Meanwhile, Meg’s attempted career in the country music industry has fallen apart. Lastly, the youngest sister, Babe, has just shot her husband under mysterious circumstances. 

Director Axis Fuksman-Kumpa ’17 explained that it can be tough for her and her actors to immerse themselves in such a complicated play.     

“Sometimes we have to kind of pull back when we’re rehearsing,” Fuksman-Kumpa said. “We need to take a step back and really process that because it affects you as an actor.”

Fuksman-Kumpa hopes the performance will prompt discussion about more difficult issues, especially at Bowdoin, where most students have extremely busy schedules.

“There’s always an idea that you should be strong enough to handle it on your own,” Fuksman-Kumpa said. She hopes that when viewers see how the members of the family rely on each other to get through difficult times, they will understand that it is OK to seek help when necessary. 

“I hope that by bringing some of this to light, it’ll make it a little bit easier for other people to reflect on that in their own lives,” Fuksman-Kumpa said. 

While the play does touch on dark and heavy themes, Fuksman-Kumpa hopes that the comedic aspect present throughout the play will lighten the mood. 

“It deals with these really intense and very genuine things...that are very emotionally traumatic, but it brings them to light in a way that has kind of a joy and a humility about them,” Fuksman-Kumpa said. 

Set designer Conor Walsh ’18 also attempted to create a more positive atmosphere for the production with an open, airy stage design. 

“To bring it more into the realm of comedy and to lighten up some of the dark themes, the set’s very light,” Walsh said. 

He and the crew also worked to make the set feel more lived-in, with details like slightly scratched-up walls.

“The walls weren’t painted yesterday, you know? They were, but they’re not supposed to look like it,” Walsh said.

The lighthearted mood was present in rehearsals as well, according to cast member Austin Goldsmith ’18, who plays Meg.

“Our better rehearsals come out of those where we have a little bit of time to goof around beforehand, so we connect better,” Goldsmith said.

The cast is also trying to find humor in chaos—due to the timing of this weekend’s Inauguration, the members have not yet been able to rehearse in Pickard.

“The rehearsal process is different from usual because I’ve never been so late getting into the space. [This week] was the first time we ran through the entire show,” said Goldsmith.
In order to direct a play through Masque and Gown, one must submit a detailed proposal to be reviewed by the club. Masque and Gown President Madeleine Livingston ’16 explained that Fuksman-Kumpa’s proposal for “Crimes of the Heart” stood out for a variety of reasons. 
“[It] is not a play that very many people know but is really interesting and deals with some tough issues about families,” Livingston said. 

The show will be performed on October 22, 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. in Pickard Theater. 
“I’m most excited to see it come together,” said Livingston. “I think it’s always nice to have been part of a show from the conception to performance.”

“I just really encourage people to come see the show,” said Fuksman-Kumpa. “I think it’s something that is at some points challenging to watch but the kind of experience where, at the end, you’ll be glad you saw it.”