Thursday, March 5, 2015


As we open our March schedule, note that several fine local shows are continuing this week, with performances of Moliere's School for Wives, directed by Jonathan Hunt Sell for Illinois State University's Westhoff Theatre, finishing up Friday night with a 7:30 pm performance, and the cave-in musical Floyd Collins playing at the Station Theatre in Urbana through Saturday the 7th. Hostage, a world premiere of a drama by Kim Pereira for New Route Theatre, runs until Sunday March 8.  You'll find all the details for each show at the link under its title.

Out in Goodfield, the Barn II is giving top billing to actor Don Challacombe in a "comic thriller" called Tiptoe Through the Tombstones, playing from tonight through April 19. Also in the cast: April Bieschke, Tamra Challacombe, Pat Gaik, John Johnson, Bob Lane Jr., Nancy Nickerson, Mary Simon, Lana Warner and Terri Whisenhut. For Tiptoe info, click here for the Barn II's website or here for their Facebook page.

Tonight also marks opening night for 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, John Ford's rip-roaring 17th century revenge tragedy about incest, adultery, betrayal, tempestuous passion and unspeakable violence, at the University of Illinois. 'Tis Pity is playing in the Colwell Playhouse in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, with performances through March 15. Guest director William Brown, who comes to Urbana from Chicago's Writers' Theatre, directs his own adaptation of Ford's play set in contemporary Italy. For Illinois Theatre, David Monahan and Clara Byczkowski play brother and sister Giovanni and Annabella, whose forbidden love fuels the tragedy, with MFA actor Thom Miller as Soranzo, Annabella's wrathful suitor and professor Robert G. Anderson as Donado, one of the many people seeking revenge in this dark and diabolical tale.

Community Players is open for business in March with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the Broadway musical version of the 1964 movie Bedtime Story, starring David Niven and Marlon Brando as a pair of con men with decidedly different styles fleecing wealthy women on the Riviera, and 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with Michael Caine and Steve Martin in the roles. On Broadway, it was John Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz as the rival swindlers, with Butz taking home the Tony for his performance. Alan Wilson directed Dirty Rotten Scoundrels the musical for Community Players, with Dave Montague and Nick Benson taking on sophisticated Lawrence and pitiful Freddy respectively. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels opens with a preview on March 12, followed by weekend performances through the 29th.

It's interesting that the Normal Theatre is showing To Catch a Thief, the stylish 1955 Hitchcock film with Cary Grant as a famous (but retired) jewel thief on the Riviera, at the same time Dirty Rotten Scoundrels hits Players Theatre. Cary's John Robie, AKA "The Cat," is elegant and debonair as he dashes across rooftops and romances Grace Kelly, an heiress who seems to be trying to snare him a lot more aggressively than he's trying to grab her mother's jewels. It's all in good fun with some beautiful scenery, and I'm not just talking Grant and Kelly. They're pretty spectacular, though. To Catch a Thief will be on screen at the Normal Theatre from March 12 to 15, with 7 pm screenings all four nights.

It's a different locale -- the English countryside -- and era -- the Regency period of the early 19th century -- when Pride and Prejudice comes to Illinois State University's Center for the Performing Arts from March 26 to April 4.  The best known dramatic adaptation of Jane Austen's book is probably the 1995 mini-series that featured Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. But Keira Knightley also took on Elizabeth Bennet, the young woman who comes from a rather havey-cavey family full of daughters, all of whom who need to be married off. When Eliza Bennet meets the very eligible but rather stuffy Mr. Darcy, it's not long before both pride and prejudice come into play. If you read or saw Bridget Jones' Diary, you know the basic plotline. Lori Adams directs all eight of ISU's MFA actors in this production, where Natalie Blackman will play Elizabeth and Robert Johnson her Darcy. This version of Pride and Prejudice was adapted by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan from the Austen novel.

Station Theatre Artistic Director Rick Orr will be at the helm of the new Terrence McNally play Mothers and Sons when it opens March 26 at the small black box theater in Urbana. Barbara Ridenour will play Katharine Gerard, the mother in the title, whose son died years ago. Katharine comes to the apartment where her son once lived with his partner, barging into the life of that partner, who has now moved on, married a younger man and adopted a child. Cal, who once loved her son, has not only moved on, he has lived on, which her son did not. As Chris Jones noted in his Chicago Tribune review of the New York production, this is a play of reconciliation. The image above is from that Broadway production, which starred Tyne Daly as Catherine.

And, of course, there's lots more happening on area stages, from Peoria to Bloomington and farther afield.

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