Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley introduces the MaGrath sisters who are all in crisis. Lenny’s house has been struck by lightning; Meg, who works in a dog food factory, has come home; and Babe has just shot her husband Zachery, who survived the injury.
This comedic yet dramatic play takes place in the grandfather’s house who has just had a stroke. Everything seems to be falling down around the sisters’ ears.
Living next door is the first cousin Chick Boyle. At twenty-nine, Chick seems to have everything: a husband, two children, a nice house, and respect in the community.
Chick actually believes that she knows what is best for everyone. She does not hold back any of her opinions or advice. When the sisters do something wrong, Chick almost seems happy. On the other hand, she pities Lenny whom she thinks has the most sense of the sisters. Chick finds her cousins well beneath her status.
To her, they are the crazy McGrath girls. Chick hopes that she will be able to hold up her head in the community after the scandal created by Babe and the shooting. She wants to be a member of the Ladies’ Social League which means that the family cannot be involved in a scandal.
The relationship between Chick and Lenny seems closest. Lenny and Chick talk and Chick keeps up with the rest of the family. Obviously, she feels comfortable in asking Lenny to do her a favor by buying a pair of panty hose It is Chick who goes and picks up Babe at the jail.
There are some signs that underneath her arrogance and judgmental attitude, there might be a reasonably good person. Chick shows concern for her children and does seem to have been taught some manners. She remembers birthdays and shows some concern for Babe and her plight.
On the other hand, Chick likes to bring up the tragedies of the family. For example, she often mentions their mother’s suicide. One of the sisters is a prime target for Chick: Meg. Chick does not like her because she thinks that she should not have engaged in an affair with the doctor. She finds her to be undisciplined and a “tramp.”
When the grandfather has a stroke, Chick makes a list of people that need to be called. She wants to divide up the calling list with the McGrath’s doing half of the list, and she will call the other half. Lenny is really not interested, but tells Chick that she will do the other half. Chick hints that there are three sisters; consequently, they should share in the burden.
When Chick attacks Meg to Lenny, she has gone too far. Lenny chases her out of the house with a broom. Remember that family ties are the strongest. Lenny tells Chick to get out of the house.
Chick: You need not have one more blessed thing to do with her [Meg] and her disgusting behavior.
Lenny: I said, don’t you ever talk that way about my sister Meg again.
Chick: Well, my goodness gracious, Lenora, don’t be such a noodle---it's the truth!
Lenny: Get out of here---
Chick: Don’t you tell me to get out! Why, I’ve had just about my fill of you trashy MaGraths and your trashy ways: hanging yourselves in cellars: carrying on with married men; shooting your own husbands!
Poor Chick will never understand that instead of pulling down the sisters---why not try to help them! That is not in her character.