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When You Comin Back, Red Ryder

When You Comin Back, Red Ryder?
Illinois Central College Theatre Program
November 14-16 & 18-23

By Erika Evans

When you hear the title When You Comin Back, Red Ryder? you may not know what to expect, but you know it will be out of the ordinary. Illinois Central College’s production does exactly that, drawing the audience into a world where the sixties are ending, and a myriad of styles and voices come together. The tale follows eight people who are all brought into each other’s lives by one common place, the run-down diner that they all happen to be in when terrifying circumstances force them to get to know each other very quickly.

Before the play even begins the smell of food greets the audience as they make their way to their seats. It instantly transports you to a greasy diner, the sort that you stop at on your way to another place, nice enough, but easily forgotten. The scene is laid out with two red booths on either side of the stage, a few grey chairs and tables that hold the salt and pepper as well as the napkins, and of course the main counter. It is adorned with food, rags, cups, and other items. Through the tiny, classic window looking into the grill part of the diner, slightly rusty pans can be seen on the wall, adding even more character to the classic diner image that the set radiates.

When You Comin Back, Red Ryder is the story of eight people, two of which work at the diner, one who owns the diner, and those who stop in that day for a meal. Unfortunately two people who stop in are not just after a meal, but some money as well. While the customers and employees are held at gun point by a desperate man, the tension builds until the deep secrets and lives of those in danger are revealed. The sense of irrevocability, of words and actions, fills the play.

The cast provided the awkward chemistry that the situation called for, pulling together at times and withdrawing when needed. Stephen (Nick McCumber) gave a convincing performance as the angry trapped teenager that insists people call him “Red”. Angel (Hannah Bruce) was the sweet and innocent friend and coworker of Stephen, who made the audience like her instantly. Lyle (Ryan Groves), the owner of the gas station across the street shows both vulnerability and bravery in his performance. Richard (Nathan Apodaca) depicts the uptight customer and husband well. Clarisse (Hannah Gidcumb), his wife, played the suppressed wife who pulls through to show her true and proud self. Clark (Jake Sleva) appears briefly as the angry and disgust inducing owner of the diner who is the perfect image of a bad boss. Cheryl (Rebekah Waters) plays the sweet yet fearful girl thrown into a terrifying situation. Teddy (Tannen Skriver) gives an excellent performance as a disturbed man that inspires great fear; he kept the energy up the whole time and kept the performance running smoothly.

The crew did very well, with spot on lighting and set up. The lighting was very dramatic and well timed, adding great emotion to already tension filled moments. While there were some dialogue issues, the overall performance was engaging and thought provoking.

When You Comin Back, Red Ryder? continues at Illinois Central College Performing Arts Center Studio Theatre November 18-23 with performances Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $7 for the general public and $5 for students and senior citizens. To purchase or for more information, call (309) 694-5136 or visit

Posted November 18, 2014


The Shape of Things

The Shape of Things
Corn Stock Winter Playhouse
November 14-15 & 20-23

By Stan Strickler

Neil LaBute has been called a misanthrope of the theater, and I think that title is well deserved after seeing “The Shape of Things” at the Corn Stock Winter Playhouse. What begins as a rather amusing and sweet love story ends in utter cruelty and disappointment for the main character. One of LaBute’s early works, “In the Company of Men” showed us male cruelty to a deaf woman whom the men pursued and then dumped. “The Shape of Things” turns the tables and shows us a woman professing love only to reveal her true feelings in a very humiliating manner.

The play revolves around Adam, a somewhat nerdy college student and part time security guard at an art museum. There he meets Evelyn and art major who seems bent on defacing a statue of a male nude torso simply because a fig leaf has been added to it. At first he seems frightened of her but quickly warms to her seemingly quirky personality. Eventually he falls in love with her and changes himself completely, losing weight, working out, getting contacts and finally a nose job to please her and show his love for her. Not until the harrowing conclusion of the play do we find out her true motives in the whole affair.

The subplot involves Adam’s best friend Phillip and his fiancĂ© Jenny whom Evelyn can’t stand. Eventually they break off their engagement after several dramatic scenes more or less manipulated by Evelyn. She finally becomes the catalyst for all the misery in the play.

Director Christopher Gray has assembled a remarkable cast all of whom give this rather disturbing work life. Andrew Jon Rhodenbaugh as Adam begins as a shy rather nervous type and we have no trouble believing that his has not had much luck with women. In the first scene he seems all nerves and a bundle of insecurities and he tries to dissuade Evelyn from defacing a statue. As he becomes more confident his whole being changes as he stands taller, has a more positive air about him, and seems truly in love.

Rebekah Dentino begins the play as an opinionated art student who becomes intrigued with Adam. She alternated throughout the play as the confident artist and a sweet young woman who wants the best for her boyfriend. In the end her utter cruelty becomes obvious in the final harrowing scene of the play. Cody Cornwell as Phillip becomes the perfect foil for Adam as he alternately challenges him and sympathizes with him. His anger at the end of the play is very believable and shows his loyalty to his friend. Alex Buchko as Jenny is all innocence and sweetness as she confronts the various characters. She too is quite able to express a range of emotions in several short scenes.

The main set piece of the play, a sculpture of a male nude torso, is very well done. It is given center stage and it becomes even more important as a metaphor for the place of art in peoples lives as Evelyn sculpts Adam into a “perfect boyfriend.” The set consists of two benches and several platforms and works quite well for the various scenes, and allowing for quick scene changes. There are ten scenes in the play and had it not been for the suggestive sets and use of furniture, the play would have dragged and lost momentum.

Credit must be given also to the technical crew: assistant director Liz Scoville, light designer Megan Larke, sound design by Liz Scoville and Andrew John Rhodenbaugh, costumes by Jess Hemmis, props by Crhis Gray, Liz Scoville and the cast. In general, this was a wonderful production of a disturbing play expressing the cruelty that people can inflict on others in order to satisfy their own desires.

The Shape of Things continues at Corn Stock Winter Playhouse Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm.  Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students and are available at the Corn Stock box office, by calling 309-676-2196 or online at

Posted November 17, 2014


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