Open House Theatre offers lots of laughs -- and sausage dinner

News-DemocratJanuary 16, 2014 

Being able to do something completely out of character is important for an actor.

Jilliane Ostlund and the Rev. John Lukomski are getting a chance to show that ability this weekend in "Be Your Age," a production of Open House Theatre in New Athens.

Jilliane plays Gwendolyn Holly, a 21-year-old college student who gets engaged to one of her professors, Eliot Spurgeon.

"My dad is mad about it because he was friends with this guy in college," said Jilliane, 18, of Red Bud.

"Everyone in the family wants me to marry Bob. He's like the boy next door. (He and Gwendolyn have) known each other all their lives."

Eliot is played by Lukomski, 60, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in New Athens and Trinity Lutheran Church in Darmstadt.

It's an unusual pairing for both Jilliane and Lukowski.

"I don't get to kiss many 18-year-olds," Lukomski joked. "At least not while my wife is looking."

The conflict between Gwendolyn and her family is the backdrop for the comic play, written by Mary Orr and Reginald Denham.

It will be performed at 7:30 p.m. today and Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday at the Progressive Grange in New Athens. Performances on Saturday and Sunday are paired with sausage dinners.

"This play has some parts that are absolutely hilarious," said Dan Irwin, 64, of Sparta, who plays Gwendolyn's father, Archibald Holly, a widower with three daughters.

"It's just crazy. I'm sure the audience is going to be roaring with laughter, especially when I'm on stage."

Irwin is a retired Army staff sergeant and prison medic who has appeared in about 50 independent films produced in the St. Louis region, in addition to community theater.

Jilliane is a student at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville. She played Belle in "Beauty and the Beast" and Maria in "The Sound of Music" at Red Bud High School and Luisa in "The Fantasticks" with Monroe Actors Stage Company in Waterloo.

In "Be Your Age," Linda Garrett, of Belleville, plays Beatrix, a 28-year-old woman who has her eye on 48-year-old Archibald, further adding to the romantic adventure.

"(Linda is) very talented," said Dick Petrowich, the play's director. "She's worth the price of admission herself. She's so funny. She makes a pass at Archibald, and it's a scream. She gets him so flustered."

Other cast members include Rich Matt, of Fenton, Mo., as Bob Foley, the boy next door; Sandy Hesse, of New Athens, as Grace Rendel, Archibald's sister-in-law; Bailey Lance, of New Athens, as Lois, Archibald's youngest daughter; Roger Neff, of New Athens, as Potter Erickson, a football star; Ann Tschoe, of Belleville, as Abigail, the maid; and surprise actresses as Vicky Holly, the oldest daughter and a Broadway actress who comes home for a wedding.

Petrowich has been leading Open House Theatre for more than 25 years.

"I don't know why I'm 81 and still directing plays," he said, laughing. "I enjoy it, but it's hard work. Maybe it will keep me going longer. I guess if you quit working, you just dry up."

At a glance

What: "Be Your Age"

Where: Progressive Grange, 8855 Schaller Road in New Athens

When: 7:30 p.m. today and Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday (the last two performances are paired with sausage dinners)

Admission: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $7 for students Thursday and Friday; or $20 for adults and $10 for children 11 and younger Saturday and Sunday

Reservations: Required for Saturday and Sunday. Call 618-475-3248

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