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Thursday, July 28, 2005 01:54 pm

Taking it to the edge

Teen theater troupe present challenging play this weekend

And now for something completely different: Springfield Theatre Centre’s Active and Creative Teen Theatre troupe is giving us a play to think about this weekend: Boiling People in My Coffee, by Jonathan Yukich, a theater professor at New York University. It runs Friday and Saturday, July 29 and 30, at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

The one-act play is directed by Eddie Van Bogaert, who will be a junior at Rochester High School this fall, and features a four-member cast of area teens: Molly Mathewson of Athens, Daniel and Taylor Bapst of Rochester, and Mike Watts of Pleasant Plains.

“This play is pretty edgy,” says Van Bogaert, “and it’s probably the most ‘out there’ show ACTT has ever done.” The play centers on the death of a couple’s son and, says Van Bogaert, holds “some interesting surprises.”

The teens had been looking at scripts, searching for something challenging, difficult, something to really dig into, and they found Yukich’s play, which has been given 43 productions at universities and high schools around the country since 2001.

Preceding the play is a performance by the teen improv group the Easily Amused Comedy Improv Troupe.

Another new play receiving a premiere this week is Ken Bradbury’s The Knollwood Stories. It’s being presented in Jacksonville at the Studio Theatre, on College Avenue. The play came about through a class Bradbury taught this summer at Lincoln Land Community College. Twelve students interviewed 24 residents at the Knollwood Retirement Village and used 200 hours of taped interviews to create the play, which will be performed at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 28 and 29, and at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 30. The show covers such topics as school days, the Depression, romance, World War II, and growing old.

The show, directed by Bradbury, also features original songs. For tickets, call 217-245-1402.

• On the other end of the theatrical spectrum, the 40-year-old musical classic Fiddler on the Roof is being given a solid production at the Little Theatre on the Square through July 31 by an ensemble of actors led by Jack Milo as Tevye. Milo’s performance is less the usual star turn and more in tune with the character created from Sholom Aleichem’s original stories. It works here, especially alongside Ann Borders as Tevye’s wife, Golde, and Anna McNeely as Yente. Both bring perfect comic timing yet imbue every word with an underlying sense of seriousness. The show is beautifully designed, with sets by Nathan R. Rohrer, lighting by Diane Kinkennon, and costumes by Kathryn Wagner. Musical director P. Jason Yarcho is one of the best musical directors around, and his small pit orchestra serves the score well. For tickets, call 888-261-9675.

• New Salem’s production of the hit musical Little Shop of Horrors continues this weekend, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. For fans of the show, this production is a little different, but the vocals and the band are definitely worth checking out. Grant Estes is the voice of Audrey II, but instead of singing from inside the plant, he stands onstage with the band. Watching him perform is a treat; in fact, the entire performance feels like a show and concert, rolled into one. The two leads, Vanessa Ferguson and Blake Long, have great voices and both are fantastic in this production. A newcomer to the area, J. Nick Dickert, a visiting professor of theater at Jacksonville’s MacMurray College, directs. For tickets, call 217-632-5440 or 800-710-9290.

• After seeing the play Broadway at Krannert Center in Urbana a couple of weeks ago, I went back to see My Three Angels, directed by William G. Martin. The 1952 French play was adapted the following year for Broadway by Sam and Bella Spewack (in 1955, it became a film, starring Humphrey Bogart). Like Broadway, this is another seldom-seen play and one wonders why. Set in 1910, three convicts on the island of Cayenne, French Guiana, come to the aid of a family at Christmastime. It is hilarious, and tender, too. Dallas Street, who played the lead role in Sunday in the Park with George here last year, is priceless as one of the convicts. Street, along with Peter Davis and E. Wesley Parks, are having a ball in this one. The repertory season (which includes Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers and Broadway) concludes this weekend. For tickets, call 217-333-6280.

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