Family conflicts and criminal activity will take center stage at the Sampson Community Theatre this weekend as performances of “Crimes of the Heart” begin.
Directed by Justin Lockamy, “Crimes of the Heart” tells the story of three sisters in 1974 Mississippi who reunite at their grandfather’s home after spending years apart and after the youngest of the three shoots her husband.
Describing it as a “black comedy,” Lockamy shared that the play is both dramatic and funny.
“There’s a lot to laugh at and it’s more of a character-driven than a plot-driven play,” he said. “The characters are very endearing.”
Bringing those characters to life include Lockamy’s wife, Lucy, who will play middle sister Meg; Angela Martin who will play oldest sister Lenny; Lillie Turlington who will play youngest sister Babe; Taylor Gilbert who will play lawyer Barnette; Kathy Day who will play Chick; and Clay Boney will play Dock.
The actors have been working hard in rehearsals to prepare for Friday’s opening night, and first-time director Lockamy is thrilled with his cast and their dedication.
“They’re phenomenal. They all take direction very well and there are no divas among them. They’re good enough to know what to do and to really go for things on stage, so it’s a very open, great collaboration,” he shared. “I love working with them. I wish I could spend a few more weeks with them in rehearsal and enjoy more of that rehearsal process.”
And the feeling is mutual. Although “Crimes of the Heart” marks Lockamy’s directing debut, cast members raved about his talent and leadership.
“He’s fantastic. A great director and just very talented,” shared Martin. “He’s put a lot of work into the play and anyone who comes to see it will see the results.”
Although a lot of work, the cast has enjoyed getting to know their characters, ones who are very different from many of the roles the actors have previously brought to life on stage, like those in The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, Little Women, and Hairspray.
“I like how she’s a caring person and she kind of has to hold everyone together,” said Martin of her character Lenny. “What I enjoy most though is being able to be in a play again. I’m so used to directing.”
Describing her character as “the rebel middle sister,” Lucy added agreed that bringing Meg to life on stage is a fun challenge . “She has a darkness that as an actor is pretty fun to play.”
This gritty group of characters was created by writer Beth Henley who won a Pulitzer Prize for the play in 1981.
“It’s a comedy that’s very family-focused. It deals with the conflicts and issues that can go on within a typical family. The dynamic the sisters have is really lovely. Overall, it’s very well-written. Beth Henley is a well-known Southern writer so it’s got a lot of Southern charm and sharp wit,” said Lucy. “It’s very intelligently written and it’s nice to work with such a meaty script.”
Lockamy pointed out that the characters Henley created are what initially drew him to the play.
“This play is really good about humanizing people,” he shared, acknowledging how people often try to fit others into a box. “It’s about letting you see both sides to a person and embracing both those sides…I think anyone will be able to see themselves in somebody (on stage) or be reminded of someone they know.”
Lockamy hopes everyone will come out to see one of the performances not only to support the local arts but also to be a part of a “shared experience” with the rest of the community.
“We’re not doing this play to just do it and say look at me. It’s something that’s intimate, funny, and poignant. It’s really an opportunity to feel better about life and the promise that’s presented by life — thorns and all,” he explained. “One of things that attracts me to the theater is that shared experience with the community. You could go and watch the movie version of the play at home and you’d get sort of the same feeling but it wouldn’t really be the same. When you go and share the experience of the play with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers, it makes you open yourself up more and be more vulnerable.”
“If you’re looking for something that will create conversations afterwards, this is it,” added Martin. “At times you’ll laugh but there’s also times when you’ll feel sad. It’s entertaining yet thought-provoking.”
Performances of “Crimes of the Heart” will run for the next two weekends. Performance dates are Oct. 11, 12, 18, 19 at 8 p.m. with matinees Oct.r 13 and 20 at 3 p.m. Tickets for the general public are $10; seniors and students, $8. Tickets can be purchased one hour prior to show time at the theater box office.
Sampson Community Theatre is located at 115 Fayetteville St., Clinton.
For more information, call 910-592-8653 or visit sampsoncommunitytheatre.org.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.