Fans of the absurd are in for a double dose of hilarity courtesy of the Parkland College Department of Fine and Applied Arts and their current offerings: Christopher Durang's "The Actor's Nightmare" and the Neo-Futurist Acting Company's "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind."
The evening begins with Durang's short comedy, which, if experienced, would cause any thespian to wake in a cold sweat.
"The Actor's Nightmare" finds a hapless young man, referred to as George, who finds himself on a stage just moments before the curtain is to go up, surrounded by cast and staff members who tell him he, the understudy, must go on for the lead actor who has met with catastrophe.
Poor George. He has no idea how he got into this predicament, nor even what play the cast is doing. Lucky for him, apparently neither does anyone else!
One co-star tells him they're doing Noel Coward's "Private Lives." Another starts feeding him cues from "Hamlet." Or was that "Checkmate?" No, certainly the executioner's presence means this must be "A Man for All Seasons," right?
The hilarity is nonstop, skillfully staged with some simple scenery and lavish backdrops featuring the talents of Seth Valentine as the poor sap George,and a well-synchronized supporting ensemble under the direction of J.W. Morrissette.
After a 10-minute intermission, the courageous ensemble returns to tackle the madcap adventure that is "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," which is a Chicago original written and performed by a troupe known as the Neo-Futurists.
Now in its 24th year in the Windy city, "TMLMTBGB" is a brilliant blend of improvisation and performance art during which the ensemble attempts to perform 30 "plays" within 60 minutes.
The audience is given a "menu" listing 30 titles to choose from and is instructed to call out random numbers to the moderator, who instructs the cast to begin the first number he hears.
A stopwatch is illuminated, and the executioner, channeling Vanna White, strikes numbers from a mock scoreboard as the cast moves swiftly from one scenario to another, with barely enough time in between to catch their breath!
Members of the tireless ensemble include Clara Byczkowski, Sherrika Ellison, Mark Fox, Michelle Mills, Zach Ross, Griffen Schulman and Rachel Warren, all delightfully engaged in providing an evening of pure entertainment for their audiences.
No Cliff's Notes needed for this one, folks. A funny bone will do!
If you go
What: Parkland College Theatre presents "Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind" — 30 Chicago Neo-Futurist plays in 60 minutes, plus Christopher Durang's short comic play "The Actor's Nightmare" (directed by J.W. Morrissette and Seth Valentine)
Cast: Clara Byczkowski, David Dillman, Sherrika Ellison, DeVonte Johnson, Michelle Mills, Zach Ross, Griffen Schulman, Mark Fox, Rachel Warren and Valentine
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes (including a 10-minute intermission)
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Parkland Theatre, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., C
Tickets: $14 for adults; $12 for students and seniors 55 and older; $10 each for groups of 15 or more
Reservations: http://www.parkland.edu/theatre ; 351-2528
Tricia Stiller serves as director for the McLean County Diversity Project's Theatre Program, the Miller Park Summer Theatre Program and the Penguin Project McLean County. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.