Laugh away your troubles

Often life's more serious moments can bring laughter.

"It's human psychology," says Paul Jones, director of Camelot Theatre Company's "Crimes of the Heart." "When terrible things happen, people relieve the heaviness by laughing."

"Crimes of the Heart," playwright Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy about family relationships, thrives on its ability to find humor in challenging situations.

The show opens Friday, April 22, and runs through May 22. A performance to benefit Court Appointed Special Advocates of Jackson County is set for Wednesday, April 20. The show previews Thursday, April 21. A pay-what-you-can performance is available Wednesday, April 27. Director's Night, with a post-show reception, is Friday, April 29. Curtain is at 8 p.m., 2 p.m. on Sundays.

When three quirky sisters reunite in their small Mississippi hometown to visit the dying grandfather who raised them, trouble rears its head as the girls try to cope with their rivalries and their family's tragic past.

There's Lenny, played by Presila Quinby, who is the oldest, Meg, played by Renee Hewitt, and Babe, played by Sarah Gore.

"Lenny is unsure of who she is and doesn't want to get too close to anyone, even though she has a new, romantic interest," says Jones. "Babe married a man for his wealth and power, and now she's out on bail for shooting him in the stomach. Meg has always been steeled against any emotion, and she's just returned from Hollywood after a failed singing career."

"Crimes of the Heart" won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981, the same year it opened on Broadway. There, it ran for more than 500 performances. In 1986, the play was made into a movie starring Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek.

"The 'crime' is that human beings can trust their hearts too much, or sometimes not enough," says Jones. "The heart can betray us or lead us in the right direction."

Jones says Henley's play is tightly written, moves swiftly and has delightful and engaging characters.

"All of them need and want something," says Jones. "Even the young lawyer (played by Peter Wickliff) who wants to defend Babe."

We never learn the actual fate of the sisters in Henley's comedy. Connecting with each other to find love and joy becomes more important than their situations.

"Maybe if we listen to our hearts, we'll be much happier and have fuller lives and relationships with those we care about," says Jones.

Jones is a former professor of theater arts at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif. He's appeared in many productions at Camelot and directed the company's "The Heidi Chronicles," "The Dresser," "The Grapes of Wrath" and "I Remember Mama."

The cast also includes Linda Otto as Chick Boyle and Roy Rains Jr. as Doc Porter. Set design is by Don Zastoupil, costumes by Michael Maisonneuve, lighting by Bart Grady and sound and video by Brian O'Connor.

Tickets cost $20 for the CASA benefit performance and $10 for the preview; $20 for regular evening performances, $18 for students and seniors. All matinee tickets cost $20.

The box office is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and one hour before performances. For tickets, call 541-535-5250 or see Reserved seating is available for an additional $2 per seat. Student rush tickets cost $10 and are available five minutes before show time.

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