It's a fact of life; not only does life imitate art, but art imitates the movies.

I'm talking about the USU production of "Crimes of the Heart."I first saw this play in the early 80s, right after Beth Henley won a Pulitzer Prize for it. But since the blockbuster motion picture came out in 1986, the movie version has put a stanglehold on directors, actors and actresses. Most productions - including this one - trade on the movie version, right down to the "freeze-frame" cutting of the birthday cake at the end.

For those without a VCR, "Crimes of the Heart" is the story of three Southern sisters who've been brought together by adversity; younger sister Babe, it seems, has gone and shot her husband. The play is a wonderful blend of Americana and humanity and - to my eye and ear - has not dated at all in over a decade. The drama also has a popular feel about it that almost demands a Hollywood "read-out" line: "You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll come to love the wonderful Magrath sisters!"

The three principle actresses here are very intense and interesting. Southern accents wobble in and out of tune a bit, but the three women have a chemistry that keeps the pressure on. Yes, there's an awful lot of Diane Keaton in Shellie Harwood's "Lenny," plenty of Jessica Lange in Alyssa Hickman's "Meg" and more than enough spacey Sissy Spacek in Jeanene Bateman's "Babe" - even some Tess Harper in Deanna Sorenson's "Chick" (only Mike Humberstone as Barnette and Ron King as Doc offer truly fresh interpretations); but the borrowed gestures and inflections are not enough to spoil the fun.

Derivative as it is, the play merits your time. A first-rate script by playwright Henley, a first-rate set by Randy Ewing and some deft blocking and pacing by director W. Vosco Call make this a serious piece of theater.

Those who enjoy good plays - and good movies - should get out and support this one.