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Reviews
Trouble in Tumbleweed
Trouble in Tumbleweed
Arc Light Productions
June 26 - 27

By Eddie Urish


Arc Light Production’s current offering, Trouble in Tumbleweed is an excellent showcase for their youth theatre program! According to the program and curtain speech by the co-directors Cheri Semelroth & Cindy Bracket, everyone involved in this 90 minute production, both on and off stage, is a student and participant in their summer youth program. An extra tip of the hat to Arc Light for their inclusive and noble decision to produce a comedy.

For anyone unfamiliar with the show, a little background. Trouble in Tumbleweed was written by Tim Kelly who wrote and published more than 300 plays. A graduate of Yale School of Playwriting, he always infuses his shows with a clever plot, and a large number of extreme, zany, stereotypes, perfect for young performers or actors with limited experience…

The story is set in the Arizona territory in the late 1800’s inan uneventful, half developed western town where the stage coach rolls in once a month. The town of Tumbleweed is run by the loud and pompous Mayor Oates played by Nate Graham. Graham is well cast with a strong physical presence that eventually adds to the humor when his true nature emerges. Katie Haage, plays his wife Miranda. Haage is a talented young actress and a hoot every time she breaks out in song. The first family of Tumbleweed would not be complete without a second generation. Julia Theisen is endearing and convincing as the love struck first daughter Julie.

Mayor Oates has been hired by a Boston businessman to build a town that one day will be the Territory’s capital. To fill the local positions — sheriff, schoolmarm, doctor — he hires his incompetent relatives (kickbacks included, of course!).

Some of the standouts in this crazy group include: Sheriff Plunkett played by Ricky Schaefer, who raises chickens in the jail house…Tomi Sewell is Almira, the Postmaster who is more apt to read your mail than deliver it…Owen Fresia is entertaining as an underqualified Doc Snipes... Montgomery Wallace, Lindsey Marinich & Jessica Gould are the giggling, silly, pretentious over the top Dobbs sisters, who steal every scene they are in.

The news that a Pinkerton detective is coming from Boston to inspect the town’s development throws the whole family into a panic. Since they’ve been pocketing the businessman’s money, the town hall is nothing but a hole in the ground and the schoolhouse has no roof.

In addition to the Tumbleweed residents, we meet a handful of very colorful characters who are key to the story and turn is some of the most consistent and entertaining performances. Noah Lane is a hoot as the traveling medicine show man Professor Tom Burns, stranded in Tumbleweed after his piano playing Indian ran off with Otis, his dancing bear…Jade Sewell is spot on in her portrayal of Lily De Lilac a glamorous card shark who never misses a beat… Kadyn Deborn appears early in the 2nd act as Mrs. Baywater, a lady of culture who makes it clear she does not belong and Ben Ross is Luther, a prospector with a fondness for the Mayor’s daughter.

The rest of the story revolves around the Mayor and the rest of his crew trying everything other than honorable means to flesh out the undercover Pinkerton detective. There are a handful of clever twists and turns during their search. Rounding out the rest of the talented cast of young performers are Drake Shafer, Megan Giddens, Maddie Krigbaum, Bryson Jarvis, Tyler Semelroth, Hannah Alvey, Sydney Kelly, Lacey Yaeger and Laney Deborn.

Trouble in Tumbleweed runs Friday & Saturday at 7:30pm at Illini Bluffs High School in Glasford. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and kids under 12. For more information, call 309-455-4095.

Posted on June 26, 2015 

 

 
Dixie Swim Club
Dixie Swim Club
Corn Stock Theatre 
June 19 - 27

By Stan Strickler


When a group of men get together, it usually involves some sort of event—playing pool, going to a game, going to the gym. Rarely do men get together to talk and socialize. Women however, do not necessarily plan events. They just congregate, converse, and just be together. The Dixie Swim Club currently playing at Corn Stock Theatre illustrates this concept well, as five women congregate annually for their swim team reunion. They talk about their problems with their husbands or with finding a suitable mate, their problems raising children, and their ambitions. But mostly they just relate with each other strengthening the bonds which brought them together in the first place.

The play opens twenty-two years after the women graduated from college and in four scenes traces them through the next thirty-three years. All of these women were on a championship college swim team. Sheree was the captain now married to the coach’s son, and given her former position the planner of the group. She organizes the activities for the weekend, never forgetting the athletic past that these five friends enjoyed. The other members include Lexie who has been married so many times, that her friends almost forget how many, Dinah, the high powered attorney who has chosen to remain single and devoted to her career, Vernadette who is married to a seeming worthless husband and who has two very wayward children, and Jeri Neal who has become a nun.

The first scene opens with a discussion of their various lives as the women congregate. It is filled with humor as they discuss their various lives and ends in a surprise with the entrance of Jeri Neal. The second scene happens five years later and traces the further travails and triumphs of these five women following their families and careers. Act Two further evolves as we discover some unsettling news and a tender scene between Lexie and Dinah closes as a hurricane bears down on their vacation home. The last scene occurs twenty-three years later and shows the changes that time has brought to these five women as they have lost one of their number.

The cast is made up of five very talented veteran actresses. Cheri Beever as Sheree is all business and organization as she lays out the plans for the weekend. As former captain of the team she is used to being in charge and she doesn’t miss a beat in doing so. As Lexie, Trish Ballard is by turns hilarious as she plays the stereotypical Southern Belle who has been married several times, but she also shows a vulnerable side as she reveals a significant diagnosis and a much appreciated tenderness and understanding as to what true friendship means. Carol Rapp Urish as Dinah, the take-charge lawyer who is all business, but also has a very tender side as she changes through the course of the play. Barb Couri gives and over the top performance as Vernadette, the loud-mouthed “no punches pulled” member of the group who discusses her lazy husband and troubled children with wit and sarcasm that brings much of the humor to the play. Belinda Calvert as Jeri Neal, the nun with the life changing surprise, ably shows us a caring person who is the peacemaker of the group. All in all Lana Warner and Lisa Warner Jeans have wisely selected a wonderful cast to reveal a funny and touching story of true friendship over the years.

The set by Chris Franken is really beautiful depicting a seaside cottage on the outer banks of North Carolina. It is bathed in the soft pastels one expects in such an idyllic spot. My only reservation about the set is that most of the action of the play occurs on the upper stage so removed from the audience. Very little of the action occurs on what I consider the main acting area of Corn Stock. I think that with a play this intimate and funny, the main action of the play should occur close to the audience making us more a part of the lives of the characters and feeling more connected since the play deals with such intimate emotions.

All in all though, this was a truly enjoyable evening, and a perfect entertainment for a pleasant summer evening. It is by turns funny, heart-warming, and touching as the characters reveal more of themselves, and show us what true enduring friendships look like.   Dixie Swim Club continues at Corn Stock Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm each night. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for ages 18 years of age or younger and are available at the Box Office, by calling 309-676-2196 or online at www.CornStockTheatre.com
 

Posted on June 22, 2015 

 
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