There is just one weekend left to catch “Earth and Sky,” the poetic thriller currently being staged by the Heartland Theatre Company.
The show runs Thursday through Sunday of this week with curtain times of 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
Some of the “Earth and Sky” cast includes Richard Jensen, Dean Brown, Colleen Longo and Karen Hazen, all actors who have been involved in productions here on the Illinois State campus. Other cast members include Harold Chapman, Dave Lemmon, Todd Wineburner, Michelle Kaiden and Kevin Paul Wickart. It is also directed by Don LaCasse, an ISU School of Theatre and Dance directing faculty member.
I spoke with Longo, an alumnae of Illinois State’s theatre program the a current administrative associate for the College of Fine Arts, who plays Joyce in the show.
“[‘Earth and Sky’] has the feel of a film noir,” she stated. “It’s a murder mystery overall. The main character, Sarah, a poet and part-time librarian, is trying to piece together how her boyfriend, David, was murdered. The police are telling her that David was a murderer himself, but somehow she feels there must be something else to it, even though she has only known him for two and a half months. She knows he owns and manages a restaurant, but outside of that, knows nothing of his business.”
Something special about this plot is the fact that it moves backward and forward simultaneously. Members of the audience will follow Sarah forward, as she attempts to uncover the circumstances surrounding David’s death, but they will also follow her backward in order to watch her relationship with David from its end to the day they met, which is the very last scene in the play.
I asked Longo to elaborate a bit on her own character in the play and she told me she could not do so at length, not wanting to reveal any important plot points. She did tell me though, that her character, Joyce, is a friend of Sarah’s from the library and is full of important surprises.
“Your first impression of Joyce is that she is obnoxious because she is just always talking!” Longo said, laughing, “Eventually though, Sarah ends up staying with Joyce and Joyce is the only person she can trust, her confidant.”
Another aspect of the show that may be appealing to students in this area is the fact that it takes place in present-day Chicago. Students hailing from the Chicagoland area will be able to connect with references to places such as the Loop and the Chicago Cultural Center.
“We have it set in August of 2013,” Longo said. “The set is also designed so that it looks as though you’re under the El tracks, which is very cool.”
I asked Longo about the experience of working on this show. Before she graduated, I had the pleasure of watching her perform in shows such as “How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” and “Les Liasons Dangereuses,” which were shows with a lighter tone.
“I have never really done a murder mystery before. It is so interesting to see the audience’s reaction to things. I get screams and laughs every night. I love doing this show at Heartland because of the intimacy of the space. You really get to experience the show with the audience. And Don just thrives in this environment, because of the intimate nature of the space.”
Tickets for “Earth and Sky” are available through the Heartland Theatre Company box office. Those interested may call the box office at (309) 452-8709 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are $15 dollars for general admission, but students with an ID receive a discounted ticket price of $5.