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Fantasy, suspense, humor: 'Evening of One Acts' open at Corn Stock

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A good thing about an evening of one-act plays is that you can laugh, cry, feel frightened or able to relate in a span of a couple hours. That’s the promise of the “Evening of One Acts” presented by Corn Stock Theatre at its Winter Playhouse beginning Friday.

From a rather odd combination of fantasy and realism to a heavy dose of the macabre and finally to comedic reality, the three plays will leave audiences pondering how they themselves might have handled these situations.

In “The Feast,” we get a play within a play with a construction site the stage. Directed by Doug Day, the short play presents a contemporary situation one would not expect to find at a construction site between two equally unexpected characters, known simply as Old Man and Angry Young Man. Add the playful machinations of the character known as Blue Jeans and you have what Day calls “a theatrical sleight of hand” sure to please the audience.

“It starts out with a couple guys taking their lunch break at the construction job. What follows is a combination of realism and poetry, theatricality and fantasy. It’s a very sweet play, really,” Day said.

His cast is headed by local community theatre veteran Charles Brown, who is as comfortable reciting Shakespeare as he is performing in contemporary musicals. He turns the Old Man into director and teacher while showing the Angry Young Man, portrayed by Cullen Baker, how letting his imagination work can be life-changing.

The Old Man enlists the help of Blue Jeans, portrayed by Hannah Shelby, to make the fantasy complete.

Day said he wanted to direct the play, written by Dan Wright, for many years after seeing it performed elsewhere. However, he was unable to find the script, until recently. “I’m glad I did it. This is one of those plays that is really good food for the soul,” he said.

Food for the soul probably wasn’t what Doug Wright (no relation to Dan) had in mind when he wrote “Wildwood Park,” even though it was originally part of a set of one-act plays called “Unwrap Your Candy.”

This play has been called an inspiration of Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling and once the audience uses the imaginative tricks dealt by director Celeste Wohl it will shudder while thinking about the “what-if.”

The two-person drama draws forth the talents of Liz Scoville and Chris Peterlin and uses other dark ways to keep audience members on the collective edge of their seats.

“I’m the kind of director who loves to make an emotional connection with the audience and I love suspense. If we’ve done our job well, we’ll have a very creepy show,” Wohl said. “It’s a Hitchcockian-style drama that that have you walking away looking over your shoulder.”

The play is set in a huge Colonial mansion where we learn there has been brutal murders. The fact nobody was ever arrested for it adds to the tension as real estate agent Ms. Haviland, portrayed by Scoville, walks her client Dr. Simean, portrayed by Peterlin, through the house – after the bodies have been removed, of course.

“A show like this can be very hard on the cast because I am asking them to be very vulnerable and very dark, which calls for a depth many actors don’t have. But these two do,” Wohl said.

Depth of experience was what Cindy Clark DeVore was looking for when casting the third play of the night, “Bea, Frank, Richie and Joan.” She found it with Nathan Irwin and Lynne Dudek Grimson, who give a touching yet funny performance as parents willing to do almost anything to keep their son and his wife together.

That includes revealing long-held secrets their characters, Bea and Frank, have learned to live with for 32-plus years.

“Nathan and Lynne were naturals from the very first audition. I could not have asked for better,” said DeVore, who is making her Peoria directorial debut after many years in South Carolina.

This is a play that will quickly engage the audience, particularly those who have themselves have resorted to meddling in order to keep their children happier than they themselves have ever been. But the play still leaves the audience guessing whether the decision to bare their souls was worth it.

Joining Irwin and Grimson are Rachel Hayes and Rustin Ledford as Joan and Richie, respectively. “I am thrilled with my cast. They’ve worked very hard,” she said.

Ledford joined the cast late because of an original cast member became ill.

“An Evening of One Acts” starts at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 13, 14, 19, 20, and 21 and at 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 22. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students and can be reserved by calling 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).

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