Theater Review: Artists’ Ensemble opens 18th season with quirky ‘Incorruptible’

By Edith McCauley
Theater Critic

The monks of the monastery of Priseauz, France, have fallen on hard times. The remains of their once-amazing saint no longer bring miracles to those who come to her altar, and they face severe money problems.

Michael Herold is the abbot, and Jamie Button, his second-in-command in Artists’ Ensemble’s Incorruptible. Chad Brazzle, a newcomer to the company, is Brother Olf, wandering about often completely confused, and David Jacobs is Brother Felix. A recent graduate of Rockford College, he, too, makes his debut in professional theater with this performance.

With the arrival of Jack, a Minstrel (David A. Gingerich) and his beautiful companion, Marie (Mariah Thornton), the plot becomes more complicated. Erstwhile performers, they have brought success to the abbess of Bernay, played by Margaret Raether, who also is the sister of Charles, the abbot. Jack has presented her with the bones of a saint whose miracles bring the pope to her to witness the amazing occurrences.

Playwright Michael Hollinger writes of topics not often familiar with theater-goers. Incorruptible is based on his research of medieval relics, bits of bone, supposedly from the remains of saints that resulted in monetary offerings from pilgrims hoping for a miracle. The bizarre concept results in hilarious comedy.

Hoping to attract more pilgrims, the monks with the help of Jack, begin a full-time business of selling the bones of parishioners buried in their cemetery. Bags of bones litter the stage, and as their supply diminishes, the only solution seems to be an Incorruptible … remains that never deteriorate. Patte Armato Lund, a peasant woman from the village and the mother of Marie, searches for a miracle while arranging assignations for her child.

John Cobb, president of the company since its inception, is currently serving as finance director, and Rufus Cadigan has assumed the position of president. Jan Bacino has become the new secretary, and Carolyn Cadigan, treasurer. They replace Jess MacDonald and Colleen Magee, who served for many years.

Incorruptible runs through Sept. 25 with performances on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Coming up in October is a new feature for the company. The New Play Café opens at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 21, in the Cheek Theatre with the staged reading of The Shakespeare Conspiracy by Ted Bacino and Rufus Cadigan. On Saturday, Oct. 22, Ken Staaf’s The Right Thing will be read, and on Sunday, Oct. 23 at 2 p.m., Margaret Raether’s Jeeves Take a Bow will be the program. The staged readings include coffee and pastry in a coffee shop setting. No fuss. No reservations. No admission. Contribution jar.

Play readings were a part of New American Theater’s program, and it is good to see them brought to the public again.

Artists’ Ensemble’s association with Rockford College has been most productive. Former students are achieving their first experience in professional theater, and the company is the richer for it. To purchase tickets for the current production, go online at or call the box office at (815) 904-2277. Season tickets are also available.

My daughter, Mary, has become my theater companion, for which I am very grateful. We miss Julian, but life goes on.

From the Sept. 21-27, 2011, issue

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