Season to start with a comedy

Play: Bay Theatre Company's third season will open with the poignant `Crimes of the Heart.'

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Howard Live

October 07, 2004|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Bay Theatre Company will start its third season tomorrow with the opening of Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize-winning dark comedy Crimes of the Heart -- the company's sixth play to date and fourth in its own playhouse.

Bay Theatre co-founders Lucinda Merry-Brown and Janet Luby have accomplished much since their first offering, Christopher Durang's Beyond Therapy, which opened in December 2002. They are well on their way to achieving their goal of "building a community of artists who work together to produce great theater."

And they are doing this in their own intimate, 90-seat West Garrett Place playhouse at 275 West St. in Annapolis, which they have occupied since last September.

"In Crimes of the Heart, we have gathered together a new director and many new artists to form a talented ensemble to create a performance of artistic excellence," said Merry-Brown, the production's artistic director.

For the production, an outside director has been engaged for only the second time in Bay Theatre's history (the first being Steven Carpenter in last season's Art). Merry-Brown has turned directing chores over to Paula Gruskiewicz, whom she describes as having "a vast amount of acting experience and an uncommon sensibility and dedication."

Luby said Gruskiewicz has worked with some of the professional actors in Crimes of the Heart -- including Antoinette Doherty of Hyattsville who plays eldest sister Lenny, and has done leading roles in Othello and Annie; and Santina Maiolatesi of Columbia, who plays middle sister Meg and has performed with Arena Stage, Colonial Players and Fells Point Corner Theatre.

Playing youngest sister Babe is Claire Bromwell of Baltimore, who has performed with the Spotlighters and Baltimore Shakespeare Festival. Playing the McGrath sisters' cousin Check is Marcea Pierson of Baltimore, an actress and producer.

Others in the cast include Daniel Sullivan of Annapolis as Doc, and Alex Major of Alexandria, Va., who plays Barnette.

Debuting in 1978, Henley's Crimes of the Heart won the award for best new American play, and when it arrived on Broadway in 1981 won the Pulitzer for drama. It was adapted into a 1986 film starring Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek in the story of the McGrath sisters, two of whom return to their Southern home where Lenny takes care of their grandfather and is about to celebrate her 30th birthday.

The midseason production, Harold Pinter's Betrayal, is to run Feb. 18 to March 26.

Third in the series will be George Bernard Shaw's classic antiwar play Arms and the Man. The 1894 work became the first commercial success for Shaw, allowing him to give up his music critic career to become a full-time playwright.

"Crimes of the Heart" runs tomorrow through Nov. 13. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with 3 p.m. matinee performances Sunday. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for those over 65 and students with ID. Tickets: www.bay theatre.org, or 410-268-1333.

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