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Honeymoon at Graveside Manor

Honeymoon at Graveside Manor

Arc Light Theatre
June 23-25, Illini Bluf High School Auditorium
By Cara Rosson

I love tales of creepy old haunted houses – and I really love a good farce. Pleasantly, Honeymoon at Graveside Manor is both. It’s the tale of Tyler Thorncraft, and his lovely bride Marian. Tyler is a mystery writer with lots of books about ghosts and murder under his belt. He and Marian have just wed on this Halloween eve and are ready for their first night of wedded bliss. Why Tyler brings his new wife to the creepy Thorncraft family mansion for this special night, and with his publisher in tow, is something of a mystery to me. But, if you just let that question go and roll with the story, the show is an enjoyable, fast-paced roller coaster ride.

Tyler’s family has quite a history. Years ago, mean old Cyrus Thorncraft killed his wife Lydia with an axe. And now, apparently, she’s back as a ghost and wandering the manor threatening to kill any Thorncraft who sets foot inside. Like any good farce, there are several competing groups and interests all coming and going. We meet Lydia’s ghost first, wielding her axe and swearing revenge. Then a mysterious crazy man enters, chats with himself, and plants a bomb in the closet, intending to blow “the old barn” to smithereens. Then we have Tyler and Lydia, the goofy cleaning lady Sophie (later publisher Madge Perkins joins this crew). And lastly, three teenage girls arrive to set up a Halloween haunted house to scare the pants off their high school buddies.

These four groups enter and exit, always narrowly missing each other – except for Lydia, who frequently swings her axe at anyone who finds themselves alone, but is always thwarted by the entry of another character. Briefcases and bombs and pistols get constantly misplaced and mishandled, doors slam, people jump in and out of the window, and the story cruises quickly along, peppered with rapid-fire patter and jokes. 

While the story is quite cleverly written, the acting talent is rather uneven. The standouts fill the holes, though. Nona Buster as the wacky cleaning lady Sophie is a hoot! She fires off her witty comments and one-liners quickly and hilariously. That mysterious crazy man with the bomb is played by Kyle Petesch, who is wonderfully twitchy and jumpy in his obviously mentally unstable character. He does a great job of talking to himself in two opposing personalities. And lastly, Sami Evans as Danielle is an endearingly goofy and convincingly dimwitted teenager, trying to help her friends set up the haunted house but getting constantly distracted or tripping over the furniture.

Director Kristie Haage does a great job – she has the cast keeping up the rapid pace necessary for a successful farce. And the bit in the second act where the entire cast silently creeps in and out, one at a time, just barely missing one another, through every door, window and secret passageway, is absolutely hysterical.

The show actually reminded me a bit of a good Scooby Doo mystery, with goofy characters and lots of action, and a surprising reveal at the end to solve the whole mystery. No one actually gets murdered, though some characters get arrested, grounded, or carted off to the loony bin.

Honeymoon at Graveside Manor runs Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. each night at Arc Light Theatre (located within Illini Bluffs High School in Glasford).  Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for senior citizens & children are available by calling 309-455-4095.  For more information, visit

Posted Wedneday, June 22, 2011

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