CHAMPAIGN — When Carrie Brocksmith recently read her lines from the comedy "The Regifters" with her son's friend, he asked what was wrong with her character.
"I said, 'She's crazy,'" Brocksmith related.
"She's not crazy," added Liz Martin, who plays her daughter in-law. "She's inherently evil."
The new Stone Soup Theater Company will present "The Regifters" by Robert Lynn along with the short Christmas classic "The Littlest Angel" this weekend. Both will be performed four times at University Place Christian Church, with "Regifters" making use of the small stage in Page Hall and "Littlest Angel" in the sanctuary.
The curtain times for each are different, so the only time theater-goers may see both plays during the same trip would be next Sunday.
Both are easy and simple, making them good debut productions for a theater company that just started six months ago and does not yet have a permanent home, said founder John Stuff, who directs "The Regifters."
Angela Marcum helms "The Littlest Angel."
And both plays carry nice little messages, making them appropriate for the holidays, the directors and cast members said.
"The Regifters" is a bit more irreverent and set in contemporary times. It's aimed at adults, though children 10 and older are welcome to attend.
"The Littlest Angel" is set in heaven shortly before the birth of Jesus Christ and is suitable for children of all ages, including preschoolers.
All cast members are adults in "The Regifters," while two adults and six children bring to life "Littlest Angel."
And in a life-imitates-art sort of way, three couples who are together in real life play three married couples in "The Regifters."
The company offers this synopsis of that play:
"When a couple receives a Christmas present they cannot identify, they decide to regift it to the couple who gave them a stinky, rotten cheese basket. It's not until later they learn the gift is actually priceless. The race is on to retrieve the valuable gift, but they're not the only ones who rewrapped it. A hilarious, heartwarming Christmas comedy where everyone who gave the gift away learns about friendship, real wealth and the value of a gift truly given."
Grant Morenz of Champaign portrays Brocksmith's son and Martin's husband in "The Regifters," which he called a funny play. He and Martin are married in real life.
"There are a lot of truths in there that people will relate to, especially around the holiday time," he said.
Like Morenz, who has a bachelor's degree in acting and who recently acted in a play in New York City, most of the other members in the ensemble cast have theater degrees or at least prior theater experience.
Among them are husband and wife Mark Muller and Jodi Prosser of Fithian, who portray the Henshaws. Muller said his character thinks highly of himself and always wears a suit. Bridget Henshaw has a thing for Faberge eggs.
Prosser called the 90-minute play a blast.
"The script's very witty and fun, and nice and simple," she said. "It has great laughs and a lovely little message."
Urbana residents Cara Maurizi and Eric Beckley, who are engaged to be married next fall, portray Mary and Tom Mulligan, who are both "pretty awful," Maurizi said.
"They might be the epitome of awful," Beckley added.
"Mary really wants to be different," Maurizi said. "She's high-minded and has lots of intellectual reasons as to why she's so crabby and has disdain for Christmas."
The remaining cast members are Cam Cornell and Jenna Conway, who told Stuff they are good friends but not a couple.
Lynn, the playwright, will attend the Friday performance of "The Regifters," which debuted in 2006 in Dubuque, Iowa — that's where Stuff first saw it. The play is the winner of the 2005-06 New American Comedy Festival.
"The Littlest Angel" was first released in book form in 1946 and eventually adapted into a play, musical and movie. Stone Soup is doing the play, not the musical, and gives this synopsis:
"There was, in Paradise, a most unruly small boy known as the Littlest Angel. He sang off-key and his halo was tarnished. He meets the Understanding Angel and explains that he's unhappy because he longs for a box of toys that he left under his bed. A Messenger brings the box and the Littlest Angel is overjoyed. But there is other joy in Heaven, for Jesus is to be born. The Littlest Angel has only one thing to give and he places his box among the other splendid presents. It shines out from the heavens, becoming what men will forever call the Shining Star of Bethlehem."
After first reading the script, Marcum concluded it was a "wee bit" out of date so decided to add a "Carol Burnett feel" to it. And while the play is usually performed by an all-kids cast, she added a couple of adults.
Rodney Woodworth will play the Gatekeeper, and Cindi Norton-Williams will portray a matronly angel.
Sam Conway, an eighth-grader, will be the Littlest Angel. Marcus has worked with him before in theater and feels she's "hit the bank" by casting him as the lead.
The cast members will wear simple costumes: jeans, white T-shirts and wings. They will fly but not from the ceiling; Marcum declined to reveal how. A Flying Master, portrayed by Gailyn Marfell, teaches the Littlest Angel how to fly.
The other cast members are Gwen Kaiser, Elin Skottene, Sofie Skottene and Kate Snyder.
Marcum, who has extensive experience in community theater, said the short play — it runs 20 to 30 minutes — is the easiest she's ever done.
Tickets for "Littlest Angel" are $5 each, with a family pack for $20. Stone Soup, though, will discount the tickets by $1 each if the ticket buyer brings a canned good to be donated to a food bank.
If you go, Part I
What: Stone Soup Theater Company presents the comedy "The Regifters," directed by John Stuff
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. next Sunday
Where: Page Hall, University Place Christian Church, Wright Street and Springfield Avenue, Champaign
Tickets: $12 for adults; $10, senior citizens 65 and older and students age 13 through high school; $8, children 12 and younger; family pack, $30
Notes: Show runs for 90 minutes and is recommended for ages 10 and older; desserts will be served at intermission
If you go, Part II
What: Stone Soup presents "The Littlest Angel," directed by Angela Marcum
When: 1 p.m. Friday, Saturday and next Sunday; 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: sanctuary, University Place Christian Church
Tickets: $5 apiece; $20 family pack
Note: This play, 20 or so minutes in length, is especially appropriate for young children; it will be followed by dessert.
Information or ticket orders for either play: 649-9791; firstname.lastname@example.org  (tickets also available at the door)