By Edith McCauley
Every aspect of DeKalb’s Stage Coach Players Theater’s production of November deserves an unqualified rave review. It has been a few years since this fine community theater has been on my list, but the current production is well worth the wait. Director David W. Booth’s choice of November and his fine direction gives the audience an evening of exceptional theater. Add to this his cast, and we have the ultimate in comedy and the seriousness of life.
As Aunt Liz, Joan E. Kole is absolutely smashing as the aging sister confined to her bed in a nursing facility. Conversationally, she wanders, but the essence of her dialogues reveal a lifetime of love and family relationships. The eldest of four sisters, she is at the point where she must face the reality of mental and physical deterioration, but her spirit prevails. Joan is a dear friend, and her invitation to opening night gave us unmitigated joy.
Another friend, D’Ann Hamilton, is Liz’s sister, Aunt Moll. A faithful visitor, she strives to interpret Liz’s thought processes—not an easy job. The result is some of the most hilarious moments in the play. The extended family comes together throughout the evening. Liz’s favorite sister, Jessie, has died soon after the birth of Becky (Cynthia DeSeife), and she is taken to be reared by her aunt. Her son, Ben (Jim Doherty), becomes estranged from his mother when she marries Rooks (Don Floyd). As he is an absolutely reprehensible character, we are tempted to physically attack him. His performances at Stage Coach are those of the bad guy—which he does so well.
The set is composed of the typical nursing home room and to one side behind a scrim, the living room of a small cottage, where the third sister, Aunt Dor, resides. Cheryl Johnson is Aunt Dor, and it is not until the opening of Act II that we truly understand her character. She has lost her speech and hearing in a childhood illness, and it is the exquisitely-done monologue that reveals her inner life and devotion to family.
Two residents of the nursing home, Mr. Kafka (Jeff Whelan) and Mrs. Prikosovits (Lana Marten), enter and leave the stage in a flurry of humorous idiocy. Whelan can only be described as outrageous, and Marten, intent on capturing him, the one we know as we visit our loved ones.
Finally, we have Nurse Jane (Elise Johnson), the devoted caretaker at her wit’s end trying to keep the entire crew in order. I’ve seldom seen a better cast. There is not a dull moment in the entire production, and the pacing is incredible. Every detail is absolutely masterful.
Stage Coach Theater began in 1947 at a farm near DeKalb, so named because the original box office was in an old stage coach. Having performed in several venues about seven years ago, the company acquired a building on South Fifth Street in DeKalb. The lower level consists of the work space for the theater—costume storage, set construction, and the room needed for all aspects of a production. The theater is on the second floor with a spacious lobby, where patrons can gather for a snack or coffee. Seating is comfortable with plenty of knee room, and the technical aspects are excellent. I was impressed.
Originally, Stage Coach was a summer theater; now their season runs year round. Upcoming shows include: Fiddler on the Roof—July 8-18; Leaving Iowa—Aug. 12-22; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee—Sept. 9-19; and Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None—Oct. 7-17.
November runs through June 13. Tickets at the box office, (815) 758-1940 and www.stagecoachers.com. An hour’s drive to DeKalb will reward you with a performance that you will long remember.
From the June 9-15, 2010 issue