Smile Politely

A confluence of student theatre events

I cannot remember the last time there were so many theatre productions taking place on the same weekend and nearly all within walking distance of each other. Then again, it’s entirely possible that, up til now, I just haven’t been paying adequate attention. We all know that Champaign-Urbana is a rich and vibrant ground for theatre groups of all stripes, and the theatre groups on campus are a big (and often overlooked) part of that. And so, with that in mind, I present the following information.

For two nights this weekend, walking across the University of Illinois’ campus will be akin to a stroll down Broadway. Except, of course, for the fact that the ticket prices are much, much lower.

The busiest night will be Friday, March 14th, on which there will be no fewer than four plays and/or musical taking the stage. On that night, Illini Student Musicals will present their take on the classic camp musical The Rocky Horror Show. Of all the productions opening on the 14th, this is the only one-nighter and the only one occurring off-campus. The show is directed by Christopher Cayari and will be performed at the Canopy Club at 7:30 p.m. and again at midnight. Tickets are $10 general admission, and one must be 18 to enter. Tickets are available at the Canopy Club box office, Manolo’s Pizza and Empanadas, or Exile on Main Street.

The three other productions, all opening Friday the 14th, will have a second performance Saturday the 15th. These productions include:

Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, presented by What You Will Shakespeare

Per the What You Will website: “The Winter’s Tale illuminates the perils of paranoia and distrust of those we hold most dear. When King Leontes of Sicilia sees his pregnant wife Hermione speak amiably with his childhood friend Polixenes, he becomes convinced that the unborn child is the product of an affair between Hermione and Polixenes. Jealousy leads to accusation, and the men and women of the court find that their objections and protestations hold little sway over the obsessed mind of the king. The play showcases Leontes’s unshakable belief in his wife’s infidelity, a belief that does not recede until his actions bring irreparable devastation upon his family.

The Winter’s Tale is considered one of Shakespeare’s ‘problem plays,’ as the first half is filled with drama and tragedy, while the second half makes a sharp turn toward silliness and a happy ending. Our production reconciles the two halves by portraying the second half’s story of forgiveness as just that: a story. A fantasy in the mind of guilty man who can’t accept the consequences of what he’s done.”

What You Will’s production will be held at 8 p.m. at Community UCC, 805 S 6th (Corner of 6th and Daniel) in Champaign. Tickets for this event are $7.

Next Fall, by Geoffrey Nauffts, presented by Mithya

Mithya, a multicultural drama club on campus, will perform this modern comedy about love, faith, and family. The play will be presented free of charge at the Armory Free Theater. The March 14th performance is at 7 p.m., with performances March 15th at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

According to the Mithya event page, “Next Fall is a play is about a couple, Luke and Adam. Luke believes in God. Adam believes in everything else. And then, an accident changes everything. This play paints a beautiful and funny portrait of modern romance, asking the hard questions about commitment, love, and faith.”

For another take, I happen to love what Ben Brantley of The New York Times had to say about the show’s plot: “It’s easy to mistake Geoffrey Naufft’s Next Fall for being slighter than it is. Much of this artful, thoughtful and very moving story of a gay couple agonizing over differences in their religious faiths proceeds with the stinging breeziness of a cosmopolitan comedy. You can imagine its concept being pitched to a television producer as a sort of Will & Grace with an ontological conscience: He’s a committed Christian, while he’s a committed atheist, and it’s driving their crazy friends even crazier!”

Almost, Maine, by John Cariani, presented by Penny Dreadful Players

Almost, Maine is the first full-length play presented by PDP this season. The show, directed by Stephanie Svarz, will be held at University Place Christian Church, 403 South Wright Street in Champaign. Tickets are $5 for students and seniors, $7 for adults, and all tickets are available at the door.

Per their event page: “Welcome to Almost, Maine, a town that’s so far north, it’s almost not in the United States — it’s almost in Canada. And it almost doesn’t exist. Because its residents never got around to getting organized. So it’s just…Almost. One cold, clear Friday night in the middle of winter, while the northern lights hover in the sky above, Almost’s residents find themselves falling in and out of love in the strangest ways. Knees are bruised. Hearts are broken. Love is lost, found, and confounded. And life for the people of Almost, Maine will never be the same.”

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