Pec Playhouse’s new season opens with Don’t Drink the Water

By Edith McCauley
Theater Critic

Arriving in the mail yesterday was Pec Playhouse’s slick new brochure announcing their new season. Looking back at 20 years of history and celebrating the final payment of their mortgage in December 2009, all those who are a part of this fine community theater voiced their appreciation to their patrons who have made their growth possible. The 2010 season will be composed of five of their favorite productions from the past 19 seasons. The theater was begun in 1991 by a group of Pecatonica High School students who wanted to continue performing, and its growth has been amazing. Woody Allen’s

Don’t Drink the Water, set in a Communist country during the administration of Richard Nixon, is a slapstick comedy featuring the Hollander family seeking refuge in the American Embassy after being accused of spying on a secret facility. Ed Stiltner is Walter, dressed as the typical American tourist in loud shirt, plaid shorts and, of course, the ever-present camera. The delivery of his comic lines is a high point in the show. The audience responded with constant laughter. Jenny Kirsch is his wife, Marion, trying to keep him under control. Anne Parry plays their daughter, Susan, not quite a hippie, but close.

Brian Pauley as Father Drobney injects another bit of humor. Having lived in the embassy for six years after the regime’s closing of the churches, his time has been spent becoming a very bad magician. Laura Wiegert is secretary to the ambassador, a thankless job, and twists in the plot result in numerous physical injuries that she carries off with aplomb.

We had a pleasant surprise when the show opened with the appearance of an old friend, Carl Ambruoso as Ambassador Magee. We first met at Chuck Hoenes’ Clock Tower Resort Dinner Theatre, where he played in Gypsy, Hello, Dolly! and designed the garden for The Secret Garden. He served as a board member for Rockford Entertainment League, and is now assistant event manager for the Coronado Performing Arts Center. His role opened and closed the show. A recent graduate of the University of Illinois, James Castree plays the ambassador’s bumbling son, Axel. There is not a moment that he does not create complete confusion. Michael Dice directs. His pride in Pec Playhouse is evident in everything he says, and the future can only be more successful.

Arnie Ames’ set design with decoration by Shari Bouray is gorgeous. Every detail reflects elegance. Don’t Drink the Water runs through Feb. 21, and tickets are available by calling (815) 239-1210 or toll free (877) PEC-PLAY. Pec’s next show, Love Rides the Rails, features high school students and opens April 16.

From the Feb. 10-16, 2010 issue

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