"Light Up the Sky"

Through Aug. 15

Olney Theatre Center for the Arts

Tickets: 301/924-3400

All the action in Moss Hart's comedy "Light Up the Sky" takes place in the elegant hotel suite of fictional actress Irene Livingston. She's the self-involved star of a new play that's just about to open, and in the course of the evening Hart exposes the scheming and pettiness she shares with the director, the producer and others connected to putting on the show. (Pictured above: Holly Rudkin, left, and Halo Wines.)

Nothing is exactly as it seems in this play -- including the congratulatory bouquets of flowers that fill Livingston's room. Nearly two dozen arrangements of gladiolus, roses and lilies crowd the stage.

Now, we all know flowers are expensive. And they won't last long in a Washington summer, let alone under stage lights. Which is why most of those at the Olney are silk. The rest come from funeral homes.

Every few days, thrifty production and company manager Heather Joireman visits a couple of local funeral parlors to pick up whatever castoffs they have to donate. Her biggest score yet was a heart made out of rosebuds.

"It was perfect for our production," she says. "It was gorgeous. We never could have afforded it -- it was pizza-size."

Joireman acknowledges an occasional twinge of creepiness accompanies the floral displays -- considering their source. "When you put them in your car, it's like, hmmm . . . But once you get them onstage it's gone."

And besides, the flowers contribute more than just natural beauty. Onstage, under the heat of the lights, Joireman notes "there's a lovely odor, of everybody's perfume -- and the roses."