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Southern sisters steal the stage

March 10, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

"Crimes of the Heart" isn't a happy-go-lucky comedy, but don't let that keep you from laughing at some of the funny moments among three sisters who reunite over tragic circumstances.

Their grandfather is dying, the eldest sister is depressed over the state of her life on her 30th birthday and the youngest sister is out on bail after shooting her husband in the stomach because "I didn't like his stinkin' looks."

"The emotional level in this show is like a roller coaster," said Chuck Kopack, director of the Potomac Playmakers production that opens this Friday night in the Women's Club auditorium at 31 S. Prospect St.

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During the three-act play, there's a range of emotion from "screaming and yelling and crying to hugs and kisses. It goes all over the map. It's good. It's life," said Kopack, 56, of Chambersburg, Pa.

"It has some comedic elements, but it's not a comedy."

Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize-winning play "examines the interpersonal relationships between sisters in light of their relationships with each other and with other people in their lives," Kopack said.

The play is truer to the script than the 1986 movie - starring Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek, which took some poetic license as movies tend to do, assistant director Gerry White said.

The play takes place in the grandfather's kitchen, an appropriate room for a play focused on family. The three sisters - Lenny, Meg and Babe - had split apart and, due to circumstances, have come back together in the small Mississippi town of Hazelhurst in October 1974.

There's a bit of mystery at first as the family tries to find out the real reason Babe, portrayed by Kelly Merrbach, shot her husband.

Merrbach, 21, of Keedysville, said the sisters complement one another. They work like a married couple, so not all of them are emotionally down at the same time.

Shelby Sabetti, who portrays middle sister Meg, said their mother's actions enable the sisters to be mothers to one another, and contribute to another plot twist.

Kopack asked to direct this particular play because he liked the show and wanted to exercise a different aspect of his creativity.

"This is a good stretch for me," said Kopack, who has directed comedies, British farces and Agatha Christie plays and has conducted Shakespeare seminars for various theater groups.

"Crimes of the Heart" is a black comedy, or what some critics call a Mississippi Gothic, Kopack said.

Merrbach and Angie Mason, who stars as Lenny, were leads in the Playmakers' last production, "Radio T.B.S.," which was definitely a comedy, Kopack said.

People who saw that show would be interested in seeing this one because the two plays show the versatility of Mason, who has been acting for 20 years, and Merrbach, who has been acting for five years, Kopack and White said.

The chemistry between the entire cast was phenomenal from the first rehearsal, said Mason, 36, of Hagers-town.

Sabetti, 39, of Braddock Heights, Md., has been acting for 34 years, but this is her first performance with Potomac Playmakers.

"I've done theater a long time and sometimes theater groups are not welcoming, but this one is abundantly so," Sabetti said.

The play, with intermission, runs 2 hours, 40 minutes.

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