Tuesday, August 15, 2017

At ISU, Shue's FOREIGNER Is Out and Shepard's LIE OF THE MIND Is In

The School of Theatre and Dance at Illinois State University has announced a change in their schedule for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

Due to "the horrific events taking place in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend," the SOTD will be removing the previously planned production of The Foreigner by Larry Shue and replacing it with A Lie of the Mind by Sam Shepard.

The Foreigner is a much-performed comedy about a sweet man visiting a rural cabin in Georgia who pretends not to speak English so he won't have to talk to people, but his new "foreigner" status causes all kinds of problems. The Foreigner may be hilarious, but it involves Klansmen, including hoods and weapons, and it is understandable that that sort of thing doesn't seem all that funny at the moment.

A Lie of the Mind is altogether different, about toxic masculinity and domestic abuse, as the play examines what happens to the families involved after a man beats his wife to the point of brain damage. The statement from the School of Theatre and Dance notes that the selection of a Shepard play honors "the recent passing of this award winning playwright."

If A Lie of the Mind occupies the same space as The Foreigner, it will play in the ISU Center for the Performing Arts from September 27 to October 1 and will be directed by Lori Adams.

Other shows on the SOTD agenda for 2017 include She Kills Monsters, a 2011 play by Qui Nguyen involving Dungeons and Dragons, directed by Paul Dennhardt for the CPA in performance from October 27 to November 4; two classics -- Sophocles' Oedipus directed by Kristen Schoenback and Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well directed by Enrico Spada -- in repertory in Westhoff Theatre between October 13 and 28, and the Fall Dance Concert under artistic director Sara Semonis for the CPA November 30 to December 2.

Things are a bit less clear-cut in the spring, although there is information that directing MFA candidate Schoenback will be back at the helm for Anne Washburn's dystopic fantasy Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play in Westhoff from February 16 to 24, 2018, while her colleague Spada will direct The Illusion, presumably playwright Tony Kushner's adaptation of Pierre Corneille's 17th century comedy, in Westhoff  March 30 to April 7, 2018. After that, the Mozart opera Cosi Fan Tutte will play the CPA from March 2 to 9 under a director to be named later and a show to be named later will be directed by John Tovar for the CPA from April 13 to 21.

To keep up with School of Theatre and Dance news, follow their Facebook page here.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Casting Update: Heartland's EARNEST Begins Its Bunbury Business September 7


Heartland Theatre Company and director Don LaCasse have announced who'll be pretending to be Earnest (spoiler alert: there is no Earnest or Ernest) when Oscar Wilde's delightful period comedy The Importance of Being Earnest opens September 7th.

The Importance of Being Earnest was first performed in 1895, which is also when it's set. Earnest takes place in fashionable English settings like a London flat and the garden of a country house, and its cast of elegant characters are generally floating around in gowns with giant leg-o-mutton sleeves and feathered bonnets (the ladies) or silk cravats and high hats (the gents). Wilde is sending up society and puncturing its pomposity, which means you must see what that society looked like in 1895.

The most memorable character in the play and the clearest example of snobbery among the finer classes is Lady Bracknell, the formidable dragon who sniffs at her daughter marrying a man whose pedigree cannot be ascertained. After all, Jack Worthing was abandoned as a baby, left in a handbag at the railway station. A handbag! She also has all the best lines in Wilde's deliciously witty play, like this one: "To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."

Because it's such a wonderful role, men have strapped themselves into Lady Bracknell's corset quite a lot, with acclaimed performances from the likes of Brian Bedford, Geoffrey Rush and David Suchet. Still, my favorite Lady Bracknell is Dame Edith Evans in the 1952 movie version of the play. Apparently director LaCasse is also a fan of the female Lady Bracknell, since he's cast local favorite Kathleen Kirk to play Lady B for Heartland.

The four lovers in the play -- Algernon, Jack, Cecily and Gwendolyn -- will be played by Kyle Redmon, Timothy Olsen, Emilia Dvorak and Jessie Swiech. Joining them will be Julie Riffle as Miss Prism, Cecily's governess, and Dean Brown as Dr. Chasuble, a local rector, with Chuck Pettigrew and Larry Eggan as Merriman and Lane, the perfectly composed manservant and butler who bring in the tea (and possibly cucumber sandwiches) at inopportune moments.

Wilde called The Importance of Being Earnest "a trivial comedy for serious people," but it's actually not at all serious as long as it skates along with the proper fin de si├Ęcle feel.

You'll find The Importance of Being Earnest on stage at Heartland Theatre beginning with a Pay What You Can preview on September 7, followed by Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances through the 23rd. For the complete list of performance dates and times, click here. For reservation information, see this page.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Casting Update: Community Players' ALL MY SONS


When Arthur Miller's All My Sons, a fierce family drama about fathers and sons and the failed promises of the American Dream, takes the stage at Community Players later this month, veteran actor Dave Lemmon will lead the cast as Joe Keller, a partner in a factory that sent defective parts to aircraft used in America's war effort during World War II. When 21 pilots died as a result of those cracked cylinder heads, Joe's partner at the factory, a man named Steve Deever, took the fall, while Joe walked away, publicly exonerated. But now Joe's chickens are coming home to roost, as his son Chris is engaged to Deever's daughter, and the truth about what really happened can no longer be hidden.

Miller deals with issues of honor, loyalty, money, truth, lies and family, with plot threads involving Joe's wife Kate, who refuses to believe that their other son, Larry, who has been MIA for three years and was once romantically involved with Ann Deever, is really gone; Ann's brother George, who thinks that Joe is guilty and doesn't want his sister involved with a Keller; as well as how much we're willing to lose in the name of prosperity and affluence.

For director Bruce Parrish, Lemmon will play the head of the Keller family at Community Players, with Darlene Lloyd as Kate Keller and Len Childers as son Chris. On the other side of the airplane parts scandal, Rachel Houska will play Ann Deever and Nick Benson will play her brother George.

In the 1947 Broadway production, Ed Begley played Joe, with Arthur Kennedy as Chris and Karl Malden as George, but it was director Elia Kazan who took home the Tony, along with one for playwright Arthur Miller for Best Play. In the most recent revival in 2008, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest and Patrick Wilson formed the Keller family, with Katie Holmes in her Broadway debut as Ann.

All My Sons opens with a preview performance at Community Players on Thursday, August 31, followed by evening performances on September 1, 2, 8 and 9, and Sunday matinees on the 3rd and the 10th. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here to visit Players' All My Sons page.