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Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008 10:38 pm

Local theater has plenty for ‘mature audiences’

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Springfield has a much healthier theater scene than many small cities this size. Hot on the heels of the recent electrifying production of the David Mamet play Glengarry Glenn Ross (as well as Pump Boys & Dinettes, Thoroughly Modern Millie and War of the Worlds) comes the premiere of the locally-produced play Paint it Red, playing Friday and Saturday, Nov. 7-8 at 8 p.m. at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.

Paint it Red tells the story of the 1908 Springfield race riot (see next page). The script was researched and written by Judi O'Brien Anderson and David Logan, both professors at Springfield College-Benedictine University. The play, produced in conjunction with the 1908 Race Riots Commemoration Commission, is made up of dramatic monologues (much like Spoon River Anthology) capturing the emotion and the many injustices that occurred during this tragic period in Springfield's past, told by the victims, rioters and citizens who either fought to prevent the riot or allowed it to happen. Directed by Valerie Parga, the two performances are free to the public and donations will be accepted for the Year of Reconciliation Scholarship at the college. This is a powerful piece of theater and there is some language that might be unsuitable for young children. For more information, call 524-1420, extension 290.

Another not-to-be-missed production opening this weekend: Caryl Churchill's Cloud 9, presented in the Studio Theatre, lower level of the Public Affairs Center at UIS — Nov. 7-9 and 13-15. All shows begin at 8 p.m. except for the Sunday performance (11/9) which begins at 2 p.m. You really have to give yourself over to this play because it almost defies description. Men play roles of women, women play roles of men, and Churchill pulls the rug out from under our preconceived notions all through the show. Act 1 takes place in British Colonial Africa in 1880. Act 2 takes place in London 100 years later — but the characters from Act 1 have only aged 25 years. The play begins as a period farce and ends up as a realistic comedy-drama. I saw the original production in 1981 and it's one of those plays that people talk about for days after seeing it.

"It's a play I've loved for over 20 years," says director Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson, "and am so glad I'm finally getting the chance to sink my teeth into it as a director. Even in 2008, we realize how frighteningly true the issues Churchill addresses are."

This production is also intended for mature audiences. Call 206-6160 for tickets (or online at www.uis.edu/theatre).

Illinois College TheatreWorks in Jacksonville is presenting Arthur Miller's Playing for Time, a play about a group of women in Auschwitz who created their own orchestra. Nancy Taylor Porter directs the play, which runs Nov. 6-8 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets call 245-3471 (or online at www.ic.edu/theatre).

And yet another "for mature audiences" show plays next week: A.D.H.D. Entertainment Productions presents an evening of comedy shorts titled Dirty Words! Danger, Adult Content 2, Nov. 14-15 in the Club Room at the Hoogland Center for the Arts (curtain time: 8:01 p.m.). The two-act evening of comedies features Nancy Cole, Grace Hughes, Connor McNamara, Mary Young, Jeff Nevins, Mac Warren, Gina DeCroix and Patrick Russell.

The show also features the music of Springfield's Billy Joel cover band Silly Joel. The show will sell out, so reserve your tickets (523-2787).

Next week brings Steel Magnolias, the comedy-drama that makes us laugh and cry, revived here by Springfield Theatre Centre (also at the Hoogland Center) Nov. 14-16 and 21-23. Fred Wassell directs the play about a group of women in a small Louisiana town who meet at the local beauty shop. Featured are some great actresses: Pam Brown, Felicia Coulter, Shelly Flickinger, Cassie Poe, Linda Schneider and Carrie Shultz (523-2787 or online at tickets.scfta.org).

Sangamon Auditorium is presenting the Song and Dance Ensemble of West Africa for one night, Nov. 7, and a tour of the 1950s musical The Pajama Game plays for one night Monday, Nov. 10, at 7:30. Call 206-06160 or get tickets online at www.uis.edu/sangamonauditorium.

Finally, the comedy It Had To Be You plays the Little Theatre On the Square in Sullivan Nov. 6-16 (Thursdays through Sundays), starring Cindy Williams and Eddie Mekka (both of TV's Laverne & Shirley days). It's a kind of zany romantic comedy that could be a good date night show (for the older set anyway). Call the box office at 217-728-7375 for tickets.

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