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'Plaza Suite' opens Friday at Corn Stock

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When Howard Gorman first suggested that Corn Stock Theatre produce "Plaza Suite" at its Winter Playhouse, he wanted to direct the entire show himself.

He had directed it once before, in Morton, and wanted the chance to try it in the unique, in-the-round Costa Theatre of the Winter Playhouse. 

(Photo courtesy of Corn Stock Theatre) Susan Irwin, left, and Ryan Campen rehearse their roles in Act One of "Plaza Suite," the Neil Simon comedy that opens Friday at Corn Stock Theatre's Winter Playhouse in Upper Bradley Park.But when he was asked to consider directing only one of the three short acts in the Neil Simon comedy so that two other, less-experienced directors could get the opportunity at the others he agreed.


"I know that has always been the mission of the lab theater at Corn Stock, to get experience for new directors. So I agreed. I have more experience and have tried to mentor if needed. It has been a good experience," Gorman said.

"Plaza Suite" opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. Other performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and on Friday and Saturday Dec. 9 and 10. There will be a 2:30 p.m. performance on Sunday, Dec. 4.

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

ACT ONE will be directed by Alex Larson. It centers on a suburban New York couple who took a suite at the Plaza Hotel in New York City while their house is painted. It turns out to be the same suite in which they honeymooned 23 — or maybe 24 — years earlier and it provides the perfect opportunity for the couple to reflect and consider the changes that have occurred in their marriage since. It stars Susan Irwin, Brent Lonteen, Ryan Campen and Cassandra Irwin.

Larson has directed children's shows at various area schools and said he was looking forward to something different when he submitted to direct at the Winter Playhouse.

He was enthused when offered the show. "I love this show. My cast really bring it to life every night and it is classic Neil Simon. It's funny with good pacing. And even though it takes place in the 1960s it still has a definite contemporary feel to it because it goes into issues that are timeless," Larson said.

ACT TWO is directed by Jen Whitmore. It follows the exploits of a famous Hollywood producers looking for fresh fields after three failed marriages. He sets his target on a woman he knew, and lost, many years before. The cast is Trish Ballard, Nathan Irwin and(Photo courtesy of Corn Stock Theatre) Nathan Irwin and Trish Ballard rehearse Act Two of "Plaza Suite," which opens Friday at Corn Stock Theatre's Winter Playhouse. Ryan Campen.

Whitmore has directed before but only once at Corn Stock and not for many years because of job considerations. She has a lot of experience backstage, including stage managing several shows.

"When this opportunity came up I decided to do it. I'm glad I did," said Whitmore, a Peoria native who spent nine years doing theatre out of state, including eight as assistant production manager for a regional theatre in Miami. While these she directed several one-act plays and became familiar with many others, including "Plaza Suite."

"It's a good script. It's funny, poignant. The characters in it are very human and he puts them in situations that one could really see happening in real life. I have a great cast that has been great to work with," she said.

ACT THREE will be directed by Howard Gorman and it is about a couple who are fighting about the best way to get their daughter out of the bathroom and down to the ballroom where guests await her. The cast is Denise Miller, Gretchen Teske, Michael T. Wohl and Luke Skaggs.

Gorman has directed several shows on proscenium stages, including at Peoria Players, but is getting his first experience directing a show in the round. He has, however, performed in the round and knows how different it is not only for performers, but for audiences.

"This show presents some interesting situations for audiences seeing it in the round. The sight lines are an issue that directors and performers simply have to overcome. In the round you don't worry about whether your actors are facing out to the audience all the time, but you have to be conscious there are audience members all around you who want to see the faces of the actors. It forces us to really use the whole space, It's fun," Gorman said.

He said he became enthralled by "Plaza Suite" when he first saw the film version many years ago with Walter Matthau and Lee Grant. "It is three completely different situations all being acted out in the same room at different times," he said.

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).