Three Weak SistersCrimes of the Heartby Beth HenleyDirected by Roy B. SteinbergThe St. Petersburg Bart's PlayersPark Avenue & 50th Street(212) 378-0219Non-union ShowcaseThrough October 18thReviewed by Marshall YaegerThe main problem with this three-sister play was its awkward dramaturgy. So many interesting actions (a hot date, an apoplectic stroke, a hanged cat) happened offstage that the bulk of the play consisted of awkward exposition. ("When was the last time we saw each other?" one character asked!) Thus, when the comedic payoffs finally came, they tended to anticlimax.At one point, a character opens a photo album and pours out what were undoubtedly random memories of the author's youth, including velveteen skirts and hot chocolate-popcorn afternoons playing hearts ("beware the black sister!").To make this kind of jumble amusing in more than a sit-com way takes actors as skilled as the Seinfeld quartet. Ms. Henley was fortunate in having such players as Mary Beth Hurt, Holly Hunter, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lang, and Sissy Spacek associated at various stages of her Pulitzer Prize-winning work. St. Bartholomew's cast, though skilled, effective, and admirable, lacked the virtuosity to make a chamber work sound like a full orchestra. Since the characterizations tended to be one-note caricatures, and since the director allowed the actors to stick to single-digit choices the production suffered throughout from a lack of variety. The results were less amusing than they should have been.Thus Elizabeth Ristich playing the pivotal role of the would-be spouse-abusing-husband-killer constantly behaved like a 30-year old woman in pigtails trying to act like an 8-year old child trying to act grown-up.Julie Hansen as her slobby sister cracked pecans by stomping them underfoot; while Tracey Altman, sometimes quite affecting as the ever dutiful sibling, swept up the shells.Bruce Reizen as the male love interest seemed to exude more low-key masculinity than comfort in his role; but Susan Carlino as the sisters' cousin-from-hell did the opposite-acting throughout like Carol Burnett. She was especially funny pulling up her panty hose, and downright revolting letting her fingers crawl up Reizen's shoulder.Robert Goddard's characterization as an over-eager lawyer was as neat as his suit was pressed. As his artificial smile constantly dissolved into recognizable feelings, his character became the most fully realized and touching. If the others had worked as successfully as this fine actor the production might have been stellar.Richard Tatum did the lights. Masque Sound created realistic cars and crickets. Ariadne Condos was responsible for scenic design and Joe Nielson for costumes and props. Between them they created a realistic and attractive set and a fabulous birthday cake with 30 countable candles (plus one to grow on). That detail was the kind of excellence to which this production strove and almost achieved.BOX SCORE:(On a scale of 0 to 2)Writing 2Directing 1Acting 1Set 2Costumes 2Lighting/Sound 2Reviewed on October 9, 1998