The romantic tension in Crimes of the Heart between Babe Magrath and her lawyer, Barnette Lloyd, is playful and longing, a sweet flirtation wrapped in a tricky legal situation that may end up being disastrous for one or both of them. What you might not realize is that actors Lizzie O’Hara and Josh Marx have a long history of acting onstage together—as well as a very personal offstage relationship.
Lizzie and Josh met at San Jose State University, where he was majoring in Animation and she in Film. They were cast together in a one-act play called Am I Blue?—which happens to be one of Crimes playwright Beth Henley’s earliest works. Lizzie played an awkward girl trying to seduce a varsity jock.
Lizzie says, “We became fast friends.” Despite not being Theatre majors, they both haunted the theatre department and did every show possible. Their final show together at SJSU was Urinetown, with Lizzie playing Little Sally and Josh playing Officer Lockstock. They both won the Hal Todd Award for Excellence in Acting in Graduating Seniors (Best Actress and Best Actor). Although they were still “just friends,” they thought it would be funny to sing “Follow Your Heart” at the awards ceremony and awkwardly kiss at the end of it. “This,” Josh says, “was our very first kiss.”
That summer, they both took trips to Europe, and met up in Paris. They went on a pub crawl with a group of friends, but got separated from the group and had to navigate their way through a foreign city. “Lizzie, in a prophetic moment, took a quick snapshot of us holding hands as I guided us through the busy streets.” A few months after that, they finally began dating.
In 2009, Lizzie began working at TheatreWorks, first as a Box Office Representative, then as the Database Assistant, and finally becoming the Donor Stewardship Coordinator/Board Liaison/Management Assistant. Josh taught drama at Hoover Elementary in Palo Alto while applying to MFA Acting programs. He was accepted to Rutgers in New Jersey, and they spent a year in a long distance relationship.
After a year, Lizzie moved to New York City, but Josh was still traveling around the country much of the time for acting jobs, and they weren’t able to spend as much time together as they liked. “Josh was only in NYC for a grand total of six months in the three and a half years I lived there, so it wasn’t as fun as it could have been,” Lizzie says, although she kept busy with her band, Sky-Pony, as well as performing and working a day job with Theatre for a New Audience.
“During a nine-month contract at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, I resolved to make things official and bought an engagement ring at the local jewelry store,” Josh says. “I proposed to her at the Mint Karaoke Lounge in San Francisco by singing ‘The Next Ten Minutes’ from the musical The Last Five Years while hordes of her friends poured into the bar to surprise her.” “It was AWESOME,” Lizzie says. “We had been dating for five years at that point. It was still a surprise.”
The two decided to move back to the Bay Area to be close to family, and to try to mitigate the amount of traveling that Josh would have to do for work. They got married, bought a home in San Francisco, honeymooned in Thailand, and adopted a cat named Mr. Fox.
They’ve had a lot of luck getting cast in shows together: first, One Man, Two Guvnors at TheatreSquared in Arkansas. “In the show, we played opposite one another and took special advantage of the final kiss at the end—grossing out the audience with our flagrant affection.” They played uncle and niece in The Importance of Being Earnest, and appeared in A Christmas Carol (both shows at Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina), before getting cast together in Crimes of the Heart at TheatreWorks.
Crimes Director Giovanna Sardelli says it was a no-brainer to cast the two of them as Babe and Barnette. “They’re both such sweet, funny people, and great to work with. They have to fall in love onstage and they do that, over and over, eight times a week.”
When asked about their favorite moments in Crimes of the Heart, Josh says, “My favorite moment of Barnette’s is when he realizes that Babe actually remembers him from their moment at the Christmas Bazaar two years ago.” Lizzie is partial to the line “I hope you win it. I hope you win your vendetta. I think it’s an important thing that a person should win a lifelong vendetta.” She adds, “I think that line solidifies our feelings for each other.” When asked whether Babe and Barnette end up together after the end of the play, Lizzie smiles and says she definitely has an opinion about that, but “Babe has to work through a lot of tough life stuff before they even go on a first date.”
Crimes of the Heart plays through Feb 5 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets and more information, click here.