Ron Komora has always had a few ideas about directing, but when you’re a highly sought-after actor most people prefer to see you strut your stuff on stage.
This month at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham, that all changes. Carol Max’s troupe is putting on a production of Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Crimes of the Heart,” and Komora is taking a rare turn off stage serving as director. The story of three sisters from the Deep South who return to their ancestral home to deal with a number of family issues, “Crimes of the Heart” opens Friday at Curtain Call and runs through Oct. 6.
“When I was at the University of Maryland I got a dual master’s in both acting and directing, and I was very interested in directing,” said Komora, a semi-regular at the New York State Theatre Institute in Troy before its demise two years ago.
‘Crimes of the Heart’
Where: Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Road, Latham
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, through Oct. 6
How much: $23
More info: 877-7529, www.curtaincalltheatre.com
“Then things got switched around and I became more interested in acting, so I was pursuing that more. But, I’ve also done a lot of stage managing, too, so this is the next logical step.”
Despite Komora’s short list of directing credentials, Max didn’t think twice about putting him in charge of this production.
“I’ve always liked and respected him, and when NYSTI closed I kind of reached out to him because I knew it would be a great opportunity for both of us,” she said. “He’s an incredibly talented guy, and he’s been a perfect match for us. He’s a great piece of the jigsaw puzzle for us here, and I knew he would be. He’s got a great temperament for the way we do things here at Curtain Call.”
Komora’s style quickly won over one of his leading ladies in the play, Erin Waterhouse.
“From my perspective, the way he works with actors has been great,” said Waterhouse, who plays Meg Magrath, the middle sister and the part played by Jessica Lange in the 1986 movie that also starred Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton and Tess Harper. “It’s been quite fun. I think he’s a fabulous director.”
The movie, which earned three Oscar nominations, isn’t quite the hard-hitting, serious drama that the original stage production was, although it was Henley who also wrote the screenplay.
“The movie follows the play closely, but I think that director’s take on it was to make it a bit less of a dark comedy,” said Komora. “I’d rather just let a black comedy be a black comedy.”
“I think the movie was a bit fluffy, and the play is definitely darker,” she said. “It’s very well-written, and it’s not nearly as light-hearted as the movie was in places.”
Happy with cast
The play is obviously a wonderful tool for three female actors, and with Waterhouse, Dana Goodknight as Babe and Jill Wanderman as Lenny, Komora says he has a cast that shares the stage perfectly.
“I think the Albany area has an incredible pool of acting talent,” he said. “I feel like we’ve lucked out to get three such fine actors in the right age range who also look like sisters. This is an actor-driven, a character-driven play, and when we realized we had our three sisters, I felt like 75 to 80 percent of my work was done.”
Lydia Nightingale is Chick, the neighbor, while also in the cast are Chuck Conroy and Jeff Lurie.
“It’s an extremely well-written play,” said Komora. “You really get a sense of these people in the house together, and that makes it very enjoyable to watch. Beth Henley made a point of saying how she portrayed ridiculous characters, but that they weren’t to be laughed at. She takes them very seriously and that’s how the actors have to play it. She takes the absurdity of the situation and the interaction between the characters, and that’s what brings on the comedy.”
As absurd and ridiculous as some of the situations are, Waterhouse said the scenes and dialogue that Henley created are realistic.
“I have an older sister and an older brother, and while it may be a bit different with sisters, the way this play is written I can actually hear myself using those words to my siblings,” said Waterhouse, who grew up in Milford, Conn., and the Syracuse area before heading to the College of Saint Rose. “Henley captured the combination of love and frustration, and the competition that goes on in every family.”
Waterhouse was most recently in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” at Schenectady Civic and “Man of La Mancha” at Capital Rep in the past year. Wanderman is a bit new to the immediate Albany area, but she has worked at the Ghent Playhouse, where in the past year she was Margo in “Dial M for Murder” and Catherine in “The Heiress.”
Goodknight, meanwhile, performed in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” with Waterhouse, and also played Anne Frank’s older sister Margo in “The Diary of Anne Frank” at Curtain Call in October of 2011.
Komora, a native of Cleveland and long-time Kingston resident before moving to the Albany area recently, has played characters such as John Dickinson in “1776” and Ebeneezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” both at NYSTI, and last month was General Nicholas Herkimer in “Drums Along the Mohawk, Outdoor Drama,” at Gelston Castle in Mohawk, just east of Utica.
A friend of Henley’s submitted “Crimes of the Heart” to the Great American Play Contest, sponsored by the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and it wound winning first place in 1979. By November of 1981 it was opening on Broadway and ran for nearly two years, earning three Tony nominations as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama.