Thursday, November 1, 2012

With November Here

Pack way the Halloween costume -- November is here for real. And it's starting with a veritable onslaught of theatrical options.

From November 1 to 18 Heartland Theatre Company offers the local premiere of Red, the Tony-Award winning Best Play from 2010, which concerns artist Mark Rothko and his attempt to finish an important commission for New York's posh Four Seasons restaurant. As Rothko works with his assistant, Ken, he also questions his own choices, artistic integrity, and whether it's possible to create in the face of mortality. Christopher Connelly directs Dean Brown as Rothko and Rian Wilson as Ken for this production. Note that there is a special post-show discussion with artists Harold Gregor and Ken Holder after the Sunday matinee on November 11. Click here for showtimes and here for ticket information.

The Maids also opened last night, and it runs through the 10th in the small space tucked inside Illinois State University's Centennial West 207. Second-year MFA directing candidate Vanessa Stalling directs Jean Genet's disturbing play about class, gender and repression, with Fiona Stephens and Elizabeth Dillard as the sisters playing dangerous dress-up games while their employer is away. You can visit ISU's Facebook page for the play here. (As a side note, the poster image you see here for The Maids may be my favorite graphic of the season.)

Lanford Wilson's Home Free!, directed by Leah Cassella, is the second ISU show with November 1 as its start date. It's a short one-act (coming in at about 35 minutes) so the School of Theatre and Dance at ISU has scheduled it with a 5:30 pm curtain so you can see it before you head off to either The Maids or Noises Off. Given its uncomfortable subject matter -- an incestuous and agoraphobic brother and sister -- it's probably a better fit with The Maids. Just a thought! Click here for more info on Home Free! and its four performances.

November 2 is opening night for New Route Theatre's for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf, Ntozake Shange's  "choreopoem" that deals with the many angles and identities of African-American women. You are invited to join New Route at the YWCA on Hershey Road in Bloomington to "Rediscover the REAL you, reclaim YOUR stuff, put a melody to your dance, be born and handled warmly..." Don Shandrow and Phil Shaw are co-directing the show, with Lyndetta Alsberry choreographing. Performers include Leola Bellamy, Jennifer Cirillo, Melissa James-Shrader, Gabrielle Lott-Rogers, Jennifer Rusk, Claron Sharrieff and Christie Vallela.

And then there's Noises Off, a show I absolutely love, which opens November 2nd and plays through the 10th at ISU's Center for the Performing Arts. It's a farce, it's hilarious, and it's a great introduction to theatre as we see all the wheels come off a very bad production of a terrible sex farce called Nothing On. The Noises Off Facebook page is available if you have questions. Your only real question should be, "How do I get tickets to this laugh fest?"

The musical theatre options at Illinois Wesleyan University are almost always top-notch, and with Scott Susong, head of the Musical Theatre program at IWU, directing 9 to 5: The Musical, it's bound to be a good one. The musical version of 9 to 5 is pretty much the same as the 1980 movie, with Dolly Parton's score adding more music like the bouncy title song to its all-in-good fun female empowerment plot. For IWU, Kate Rozycki, Lizzie Rainville and Christine Polich play the three fed-up, feisty businesswomen who take matters in their own hands after their sexist pig of a boss pushes their buttons one too many times.What a way to make a living! Performances begin November 13 at IWU's McPherson Theatre, continuing till November 18.

Mid-month, Rhys Lovell directs A Kind of Alaska, Harold Pinter's one-act play about a woman who awakens from a 30-year coma, for Eureka College Theatre, with performances November 13-18. Pinter's play deals with Deborah, now middle-aged on the outside but still 16 inside, as she tries to come to terms with the fact that she and the world around her have changed considerably since her last conscious moments.

Getting a jump on the holiday season, ISU's Civic Chorale performs Handel's Messiah at 8 pm on November 14 with John M. Koch conducting at the Center for the Performing Arts.

The National Theatre Live project brings Timon of Athens direct from London to Champaign's Art Theater on November 16. This is a filmed version of the stage show directed by Nicholas Hytner and starring Simon Russell Beale as the titular Timon, who is popular with the fashionable set while he is doling out the bucks, but on his own as soon as the cash is gone.

The Shop Around the Corner, the exquisite little romantic comedy about pen pals who don't know they're also bickering co-workers, hits the big screen at the Normal Theater November 17 and 18. You may know the plot from later versions like You've Got Mail and the musical She Loves Me, but Shop Around the Corner stands apart, an elegant, lighter-than-air confection given the "Lubitsch touch" from director Ernst Lubitsch.

Keeping up the holiday spirit, the Normal Theatre adds The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant as a ghost/saint/guardian angel for Loretta Young on November 22 and 23,  the Judy Garland musical Meet Me in St. Louis November 24 and 25, and the amazing Fred Astaire hoofing it up with Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn on November 29 and 30.

What better way to close out the month than a little Astairiffic magic?


  1. Holy Moly! That's a lot of stuff to see! Thanks for lining it all up!

  2. It's pretty amazing there's so much at once. Somebody needs to back off and take October or December instead!