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Dignity Players’ Crimes of the Heart

It will make good memories for the months the company revamps

With Crimes of the Heart, Dignity Players closes a season devoted to love conquers all and adds a new dimension to its billing as “theatre for change.”
    After wowing audiences for eight years without technical smoke and mirrors, Dignity Players is upgrading its theatrical infrastructure. Crimes of the Heart, a family drama, makes good memories to carry through the six months when the theater goes dark.
    Beth Henley won a Pulitzer Prize for her play about three sisters who catch up on the trajectories of each other’s lives when they reunite in a small Southern town in vigil for their grandfather.
    The play is directed by Lois Evans and staged in the grandfather’s kitchen with no smoke and mirrors, just human appeal.
    Oldest sister Lenny Magrath is hurt that no one remembered her 30th birthday. Actress Laura Gayvert grows into her portrayal of this shy, insecure woman who gains courage with her sisters’ encouragement.
    Middle sister Meg Magrath left home for a singing career that has become a fiction. Actress Christine balances on a thin line in conveying both the confidence her character wants to project and the vulnerability she fears to share.
    Baby sister Babe Botrelle has just been charged with shooting her husband, an abusive, powerful man. Actress Lelia TaHaBurt portrays Babe as a kind but naïve character a bit too innocent for credulity.
    The Southern accents, ranging from minimal to overdone, are a distraction. Secondary characters are stereotyped.
    But all is forgiven when the sisters gel on stage with extraordinary effect in moments that merge tears and laughter.
    The ending is uplifting and convincing, which is appropriate since Dignity Players has always focused on the script and what it says about humanity. Crimes of the Heart steps up to closing with an imperfect family struggling to accept past pains, bolster each other’s present and create a greater bond for the future.
    When Dignity Players resume performances in May with the comic musical Spelling Bee, look for upgraded and expanded lights to increase coverage of the stage, a new sound board synchronized with the lighting system, blackout curtains on the windows and a black backdrop to cover the grey walls at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, where the company is in residence.
    The May show is more than a showcase for a new look. It fills the gap as the company segues from the calendar year season followed since 2004 to a traditional fall-through-spring season beginning in 2013. The new calendar will feature four shows per year, each running three weekends, rather than two. Artistic Director and founder Mickey Lund says the changes make sense from both economic and artistic perspectives.
    “Summer shows don’t do as well, and everyone is disappointed to close a great production after just two weeks when so much time is spent getting it ready,” he said.
    The upgrade will be financed by funds from Dignity’s regular budget, a kick-starter campaign to be launched in November, arts council grants and the Universalist Unitarian Church of Annapolis.

Playing November 1-3 at 8pm. $20 FSa; $15 Th; rsvp: 410-266-8044, ext. 127.