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Playwright sends ups world of hard-charging beauty consultants

There's the cubic zirconia pin. The peridot pin. And for a few hard-working Carrie Ann cosmetics consultants, those who've reached the third level and qualified for the national convention, there is the diamond pin.

But one Carrie Ann award tops them all: the Ruby Kiss.

"It's stunning," says consultant character Marcie Mason in the play "Carrie Ann's Kiss." "Boy, would I love to get that pin. Of course, there's someone eligible from all 228 regions. So the competition is pretty steep."

As Tonya Shuffler's new comedy unfolds, Marcie and her fellow beauty consultants' race for the Ruby Kiss becomes -- well, ugly.

"It gets a little vicious," says Charlotte actor Chandler McIntyre, who plays Marcie in the show opening this weekend at Theatre Charlotte. "There's definitely some catty behavior happening."

As if the drive to top the sales charts weren't maddening enough, the contest has a new wrinkle: For the first time, one of the consultant contenders is a guy. Not everyone in the play's eccentric cast is ready to embrace a coed Carrie Ann.

McIntyre describes her own character as a "good, sweet girl," but one who won't hesitate to use the situation to her advantage.

"She's young. She's ambitious. She's had a hard past," McIntyre says. "You combine those things, and -- I don't know. I don't want to give too much away!"

Shuffler originally conceived "Carrie Ann's Kiss" as the screenplay for a mockumentary modeled on such offbeat hits as "Strictly Ballroom" and "Best in Show." She still hopes to raise enough money to make a movie -- and she'd like to shoot it here in Charlotte, drawing on area talent and production resources.

In the meantime, she figured, re-working "Carrie Ann's Kiss" as a theater piece would be the best way to get the story off the page and in front of an audience. And it's been an opportunity to work with some of her favorite Charlotte artists, including director/designer Jim Gloster and actors McIntyre, Mark Scarboro and Donna Scott.

Shuffler also plays one of the roles herself, an unlikely Carrie Ann aspirant with a punk attitude.

McIntyre can think of at least one reason "Carrie Ann's Kiss" might work better as a movie: In theater, there's no second take when the actors crack each other up.

"It is awful. Oh my god. We're in rehearsal and we cannot get through scenes," the actor says. "I'm going to have to bring a safety pin on stage and prick my finger to stop myself from laughing."