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'Miss Reardon Drinks A Little' next at Corn Stock

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Bill Lawrence has long thought there was something about the script for “And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little” that was timeless, almost as timeless as he is.

Indeed, this is a play that he considers contemporary even though it was written by Paul Zindel nearly a century ago. That’s because the plot could be from modern day events as easily as it was from the 1960s.

The same goes for what Lawrence, directing a show at Corn Stock Theatre for the first time in 17 years, believes is the subtext of the play that opens Friday at Corn Stock’s Winter Playhouse.

“I’ve always believed the subtext of this play is that what parents do to their children will scar them for life,” said Lawrence, 86.

Listed as a dark comedy, Lawrence considers “And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little” to be a drama that has a lot dark humor in it. “This is not a comedy; it’s a tragedy that is filled with all kinds of shadows,” he said. “And it’s one helluva script.”

“And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little” focuses on the three Reardon sisters, all of whom have become educators within the same school district. Ceil has become superintendent of the school district, Catherine is an assistant principal and Anna is a chemistry teacher. Of the three, only Ceil married and that is one of the shadows cast upon the plot.

Another shadow is what caused Annie to have a breakdown and become obsessed with issues such as rabies. Did she really have an inappropriate relationship with a student?

Yet another is why Catherine Reardon drinks a little – or actually, a lot, like throughout the play. What happened when Catherine and Anna took care of their mother in her last years while living in the same apartment in which they grew up?

“There is some very tough dialogue to master in this play. The way he wrote it, there are lines that are very similar to others at different times, which is one of the things that makes it so good,” Lawrence said. “But this is a powerhouse cast. They handle it well.”

The Reardon sisters are portrayed by three community theatre veterans, to whom Lawrence referred as “three warhorses.” Ceil is portrayed by Helen Engelbrecht, Catherine is played by Cindy Hoey and Anna is played by Belinda Calvert. Engelbrecht and Hoey portrayed sisters in “Other Desert Cities” last year at the Winter Playhouse and Calvert appeared in “Dixie Swim Club” under Corn Stock Theatre’s tent this last summer.

“With those three in the cast, you know you are in for some good theatre, good acting. They bring those roles to life in a way only they can. And the rest of the cast is good, too,” Lawrence said.

They include Cathy Sutliff making her Corn Stock debut as Fleur Stein, Jacob Coombs as Bob Stein, Ann Rowbotham, who usually is a tech crew member, as Mrs. Pantrano and 13-year-old Gardner Brown as the delivery boy. “I like my cast very much,” Lawrence said.

He did not submit to direct this winter; in fact, he believed his directing days were finished. He was talked into it by Gloria Costa, who is his production secretary for this show.

“I wasn’t anxious to direct again, but they ran into some problems with one of the plays they originally scheduled and had to find something else. Gloria reminded me that I once said I would only direct again if I could direct this show again. And, well, here I am. I personally think they were dragging the bottom of the barrel when they asked me,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence remained active at Corn Stock even after he quit directing. He said one thing has always stuck with him in that time, and that is the sense of “serious commitment” to the organization one feels. Lawrence is a recipient theatre’s prestigious Gretchen Iben Founders Award.

Asked if he’s glad he did the show, Lawrence replied, “Yes; I’ve enjoyed the challenge, though I am looking forward to Dec. 14,” he added, referring to the day after the “Miss Reardon” closes its six-show run.

“And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little” will start at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4 and 5, at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 10, 11 and 12 and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students and can be reserved by calling (309) 676-2196.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).