This story was corrected on November 5, 2012. An explanation follows the story.
For actor Alex Badalov, it wasn’t difficult to find common ground with his character in “Crimes of the Heart,” opening Friday at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn in partnership with the Sandy Spring Theatre Group.
“My character is to the show almost what I am to the cast,” says Badalov.
At 19, Badalov, a Montgomery College student, is easily the youngest member of the cast. This is also his first major speaking role.
“I’m trying to prove myself in a sense,” says Badalov. “It’s very relatable [to the part]; I can definitely relate it to the situation I’m in.”
Badalov plays Barnett Lloyd, a young lawyer who has returned home to Hazlehurst, Miss., to open his own practice and work on his first major case. The case involves Babe Magrath (Liz English), recently released on bail after shooting her abusive husband in the stomach.
The play focuses primarily on Babe and her two sisters, Lenny (Jill Goodrich) and Meg (Carrie Silver) and their dysfunctional family dynamic.
The tragic comedy was written by Beth Henley in 1978 and was the winner of the 1981 Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek starred in a 1986 film adaptation, although Sandy Spring director David Fialkoff says the movie and the play differ greatly. Most recently, in 2008, the show was revived as an off-Broadway production directed by Kathleen Turner.
While Badalov says he had no problem finding similarities with Barnett, the character connection didn’t come so naturally for other members of the cast.
“I never had to shoot my husband so I didn’t have that experience,” laughs English.
“There’s a challenge in playing someone who is different than you are,” adds Goodrich.
Goodrich plays eldest daughter Lenny who, at 30, is unmarried with dwindling prospects. Goodrich says her personality isn’t exactly in line with Lenny’s.
“She and I don’t have a lot in common, but it was the most interesting part for me,” says Goodrich.
Whether or not they were able to find commonalities with their characters, cast members say they were certainly able to identify with the relationships portrayed in the show, and they expect audiences will be able to, as well.
“It’s a very real dynamic similar to the one I have with my sisters,” says English. “With these people, there are some absurdist things going on but the basic relationships are something to relate to ... we all have family, whether or not you’d like to admit it.”
“I find these three actresses very genuine with each other,” adds Patrick Pase who plays Doc Porter. “It comes off as the way three sisters would [interact].”
For Fialkoff, having the play hit home for his audiences was a matter of creating what he calls an “emotional roller coaster.”
“What I decided to try and do is ... to make the funny scenes even funnier and ... to make emotional scenes even more emotional and moving if possible,” says Fialkoff. “It seemed to me that’s what the playwright was doing ... it’s the message of the play; that’s what life is.”
Fialkoff says it wasn’t difficult to create the roller coaster because the script is so well-written.
“We really let the playwright lead the way,” he says. “I think she did a good job of injecting humor and injecting tragedy.”
Badalov says this ability to balance two extreme emotions is characteristic of Henley’s writing and something he likes so much about her work.
“It kind of borders on ... southern grotesque,” he says. “[Henley] has an ability to find light in dark situations.”
“My character goes from times when she’s crying to laughing,” adds Goodrich. “Which of course, is what life is like; there’s great sadness and there’s also humor.”
In an earlier version of the story, actor Alex Badalov’s name was misspelled.