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'Private Lives' opens Friday at Corn Stock

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Is anybody really normal? That's a question playwright Noel Coward contemplates in his classic comedy "Private Lives," which opens Friday under the tent at Corn Stock Theatre.

Coward, who many believe was doing a partially autobiographic piece when he wrote "Private Lives" more than 80 years ago, perhaps told us his opinion in a line one of the five characters says:

"I think that people are not really normal deep down in our private lives," the line goes.

(Photo courtesy of Corn Stock Theatre) The cast of "Private Lives," which opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Corn Stock Theatre, is, from left, Amy Wyckoff, Nathan Irwin, Jennifer Whitmore, Jeff Craig and Kerri Rae Hinman. Tickets for the show are $12 for adults and $10 for students and can be reserved by calling 676-2196.And yet "Private Lives" is a piece about love and passion, about being passionate about love and loving passion. To many that seems pretty normal, does it not?

But as director Charles Brown commented, "While this play gives great insight into love and passion, we realize they are not always the same thing. Everyone loves passion but not everyone is passionate. This is a great comedy but it is more than just witty banter. It gives audiences something to think about."

"Private Lives," which debuted in London in 1930 with Coward himself in a starring role, runs through Saturday, Aug. 11. Show time is 7:30 p.m. for each performance. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and can be purchased at the box office in Upper Bradley Park or reserved by calling 676-2196.

The play focuses on a divorced couple, Elyot and Amanda, who run into each other at a hotel in Paris — while on their honeymoons with new spouses. Elyot and Amanda discover they still have strong feelings for each other and ... well, we shouldn't give away what happens here.

"The real action of the play surrounds Elyot and Amanda and what they are going to do, especially when they being remembering why they split up to begin with. You can imagine some of it and there are some very funny lines and scenes. It may have been written more than 80 years ago but those lines and the theme are timeless, I think," Brown said.

He added he made no effort to lock this show into a certain time period, using generic costuming and furnishings. He also changed a few words to bring out the modern meanings. Brown admits, however, to using authentic 1930s music in pre-show and intermission and during the play.

Nathan Irwin, a veteran of Corn Stock and Peoria Players shows, including the Winter Playhouse, portrays Elyot. Amanda is played by Amy Wyckoff, another veteran of Corn Stock and other central Illinois stages, including The Muni in Springfield.

Sybil, Elyot's new wife, is portrayed by Kerri Rae Hinman and Jeff Craig, who earlier this summer starred in "The Importance of Being Earnest," plays Victor, Amanda's new husband. Jennifer Whitmore portrays the maid, Louise.

"Private Lives" is Brown's second directorial turn at Corn Stock and while he was not the original director for the play, he was pleased to be able to take over when the first director had to step aside.

"I offered because it is a good play and I thought it would be fun to work with actors in the kind of intimate setting this shows has. I also thought it gave me and Corn Stock a chance to sort of connect the two non-musicals because there are a lot of similarities between the styles of Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde (who wrote "The Importance of Being Earnest"). There are some similarities between the two plays themselves," Brown said.

"Another reason I wanted to do it was for the opportunity to get more experience directing and I got an excellent cast to do it with. We're getting great performances by the entire cast. It has been a lot of fun," he said.

"Private Lives" is a Hot Tix show, meaning Corn Stock Theatre members can purchase tickets at the door for the Sunday and Monday performance for $5.

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or editor@thepeorian.com

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).