Maria Wittenauer –
On Monday of last week, I had the privilege of sitting in on a dress rehearsal of the show Good ‘n Plenty, which opened last weekend at Theatre on the Square. The show is being directed by Craig Steenerson, an IC professor, and Carly Holmes, an IC alum. The lively cast is made up mostly of current IC students and faculty, and all but two, Drew Stroud and Sherri Mitchell, are double casted. This means they play more than one character, most of the time switching between them several times within a scene.
Good and Plenty is about a young teacher, played by Drew Stroud, who wants to switch up a Problems of Democracy class at Wintersville High School. This is something that a veteran history teacher, played by Sherri Mitchell, previously seen as the Duchess of York in Richard III, does not want. Kevin and Jaime Klein, both IC professors, play teachers at the high school. IC students Brianna Klein, Squire Prince, Maximillian Valdez, and Brandon Coniglio, as well as Katie McDannald play students at Wintersville. Steenerson says that he chose the play because he had good actors in mind, and it would be a good opportunity for them to do a show different than the kind we do at IC. The Playhouse approached him to put on a show this season; he chose this one also because he did it twelve years ago in Arizona soon after it was written, and it went well there.
The story, told in flashback by Stroud’s character Mr. Richard, is set in 1976. Instead of the usual method of conducting class, Stroud’s character wants to conduct a game in which “drug dealing” takes place; drugs in the form of Good n’ Plenty candies. Students are assigned as pushers, buyers, judge, etc. The game is supposed to teach students the problems that can arise in such proceedings, but things get interesting when real drugs are found at the school. Soon a general theme of “character” becomes clear. The whole play is speckled with humor, with situations involving an inhaler, a principal who does not know how to work the loudspeaker, a character who cannot get enough of eating paper, an actor fighting himself, and funny voices from all of the characters. Fun 1970s music helps to get the audience into the mood of the play, and the small stage and simple set add to the humor.
According to cast members, the show has grown a lot since they started work on it. Valdez says that “everyone has found their little kinks of their characters. The stage is our playground and we sure as hell use the space.” Kevin and Brianna Klein mention the growth of the characters. Stroud says, “We first read the script and it was obvious we had a pretty stellar cast. . .everyone has really developed into the characters of the play, which is really cool from my perspective because I know exactly which student I am talking to.”
Want to meet get a better idea of some of the characters from the actors’ perspectives? Kevin Klein’s favorite character of his is a history professor who is very dry, “monotone, no emotion.” Brianna Klein enjoys both of her characters; Roann is “fun because I never considered myself the ‘it girl,’” and Kim “is fun too because she’s very ‘I don’t care,’ she just is herself.” Valdez says that he loves his characters: “Elvis for being a weird 30 year old man still in high school…he just does whatever the hell he wants basically. And the Twins…it’s like battling myself. Sometimes I get to talk to myself without being judged.” Yes, he plays both twins at the same time. Stroud can relate to his character being “witty and hip,” and the fact that “he also has a strong desire to be right and win which is something I too can relate with.” Prince portrays both a student “only there for ‘Time Served for Grades Earned,’” according to Stroud, and a student who is one of the top of his class. Jaime Klein plays a few different teachers, including one very bitter about a divorce and a Spanish teacher who speaks Spanish in an English accent and English in a Spanish accent. McDannald plays a girl at the top of her class, and a foreign exchange student who learned all her English from pop culture.
So, why should YOU see Good ‘n Plenty? Steenerson says that the show is appropriate because it is an election year; it makes you “question policies and procedures in a humorous way.” He says that one of Stroud’s lines is particularly applicable, paraphrased as: We all want to win–it’s hard to please everyone. Rules, laws, and regulations come into question. Valdez says, “It’s a step out of normal shows.” Brianna Klein says that the show is “stupid funny,” and that we should all come support our IC community who is involved. Kevin Klein says that it’s a good opportunity to “let down, have a good time, listen to some great seventies music.” Stroud’s favorite part is “the story in general. It’s just so bizarre and unique and you just think it shouldn’t play out like it does,” which I can tell you is absolutely true. He also mentions how different the storytelling of the show is; it is unique for sure.
So make it on out to Playhouse on the Square (near the movie theatre on the square, and next to Soap Co. Coffee House) and see this unique and hilarious play! Remaining show times are Friday the 26th and Saturday the 27th at 7:30pm, and Sunday the 28th at 4pm.
Maria Wittenauer, from Springfield, Illinois, is a sophomore double-majoring in English and theatre at Illinois College. Maria is a features editor for The Rambler, a consultant at the Writing Center, a transcriber for the History Department, and a member of Gamma Delta and the Women’s Chorale.