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Published March 28, 2001 at 8:31 p.m.

The patient died, but Midwives won’t. The latest incarnation of Chris Bohjalian’s best-selling novel is a made-for-television movie starring Sissy Spacek, Peter Coyote, Piper Laurie, Terry Kinney and Alison Pill. It airs Monday night at 9 p.m. on Lifetime, a.k.a. “television for women.” But ladies looking for a new angle on the obstetrical action will be disappointed by the hokey, by-the-book approach to the story of a Vermont babycatcher charged with involuntary womanslaughter. The movie starts at the moment of the verdict and backtracks to follow Sibyl Danforth through a disastrous delivery that ends in a fatal C-section. “I think Sissy Spacek is beatific as my beleaguered midwife,” says Bohjalian, conceding his book is “deceptively difficult to adapt.” In its original form, the story is narrated by the daughter, who retells it years later from her perspective as a licensed OB-GYN. That temporal leap was lost on “teleplay” writer Cynthia Saunders, but Bohjalian is thankful she focused on the right thing: “I always viewed Midwives as a mother-daughter love story, and she got that… Except for the scene where Sybil plunges the knife into Charlotte Bedford, there are not too many big movie moments.” Although the “v” word — “vulva” — is mentioned, the Midwives movie still gets a G-rating. It’s gore-free. “It’s one thing to write that the uterus feels like damp pastry dough. It’s another thing to really see it,” notes Bohjalian. “This isn’t a horror movie.” That, despite the curious pairing of Spacek and Laurie, who were last seen together in Carrie, and the fact that Pill bears an unsettling resemblance to Exorcist actor Linda Blair. The movie gets Vermont all wrong, too. Requisite foliage shots open the flick, although it is supposed to be March, and the countrified interiors look like something out of a suburban sitcom. Bohjalian is taking it all in stride. “Wait until you see the interactive CD-ROM game,” he suggests with good humor. “With forceps.”

IN BRIEF: Two days of snow put a big damper on Three Days of Rain. Northern Stage had to cancel the run of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Richard Greenberg play to reinforce a snow-stressed section of roof at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction. Work crews assure the supports will be shored up before the scheduled opening of the next show — the musical Big River. But given the potential for spring flooding, we’re not sure we like the sound of that one, either. Perhaps something like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof would be a safer bet this year . . . Speaking of Tennessee Williams, the higher-ups at Vermont Stage Company are still puzzling over the relatively low turnout for a recent two-week run of A Streetcar Named Desire. Yeah, it snowed a lot. And the Freeps gave the show a lukewarm review. But Dee Pelletier pulled out a blistering Blanche and kept it going for two weeks — even while the Moscow Festival Ballet unleashed a flock of heavy-footed swans overhead last Thursday night. “If we are doing a well-known play, and we are doing it well, downtown, what more can we do?” asks Vermont Stage Artistic Director Mark Nash. “So many theater companies have tried to get something going in Burlington. One wonders what it takes.” . . . Montpelier certainly doesn’t have that problem. The Savoy Theater turned away more than a hundred people at the Friday-night opening of the seven-day Green Mountain Film Festival. The next day, a Saturday showing of I’m the One That I Want also sold out. Savoy co-owner Rick Winston calls the Margaret Cho film “the surprise hit so far.” Another unexpected delight was a local submission: Golgonooza, by Shannon Robards and Gahlord Dewald, goes inside an old-fashioned book press in New Hampshire. A recent transplant to Middlebury, 29-year-old Robards cut her teeth working with Ken Burns — first as an intern through Dartmouth College, then as a full-fledged editor on Baseball and Jazz. But she plays down her own cinematic lineage — she’s the daughter of the late Jason Robards. Her fledgling film company, Manifold Media, has already produced a documentary for Vermont artist Richard Schmid, and she’s been commissioned to produce a water-birth video using footage from Rutland-based midwife Roberta Devers Scott. . . . Addison County art buffs no longer have to head for the local cemetery to imagine ancient Egypt. Middlebury College has acquired an authentic mummy case that dates back 2500 years. The sarcophagus that once bore Lady Hathor-Mut-Netcher is the collection’s first Egyptian artifact, and it’s a lot more accessible than the other mummy in Middlebury. In 1886, local collector Henry Sheldon brought the remains of a 2-year-old Egyptian prince to Vermont. More than 50 years later, a curator found the corpse decaying in the attic, and the decision was taken to give it “a Christian burial.” To this day, it’s the only headstone in Middlebury Cemetery marking pre-Christian remains. “You think nothing of 1883,” says Tony Lewis at the Middlebury College Museum of Art, “then you see the B.C.”