Experimental Vision New Play Takes Center Stageas Naperville Central Presents 'Sometimes'

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Smith rsmith@dailyherald.com

Sometimes it seems like destiny, you know?

You rack your brain to come up with something different and then the fates align and everything seems so clear.

John Ludlam knows a little about that.

As president of Theatre Central at Naperville Central High School, he knew it was his job to come up with something different for the group's annual Experimental Theatre shows that open tonight and continue through Saturday.

As a senior, he's been around long enough to know past presidents faced with the same task have tackled everything from Shakespeare in the Park to student-faculty productions.

But this year, Ludlam had an advantage those past presidents didn't have. Central is undergoing a major renovation that has resulted in, among many other things, a spanking-new Black Box theater.

The theater pretty much reflects its name: a fairly stark box that currently seats about 120, but contains something most high school theater groups don't have access to: a thrust stage.

What that means is the student-actors must learn to play to an audience that's not only very close, but also on three sides of the stage.

And what that means is those same actors must rethink some theatrical rules they've lived by. Suddenly it's not only OK, but expected that you'll turn your back on some members of the audience. And now you're acting for people who can almost touch you and not for the guy in the corner 30 rows back.

If that isn't enough, Ludlam presented his cast with a new play called "Sometimes," written by Ian James, who graduated from Central just last year.

New theater. New play. New rules. It doesn't get much more experimental than that.

"I guess," Ludlam says, "I was born in the right year."

Play's the thing

"Sometimes" is a funny and poignant play about four college students who have been randomly assigned as roommates and how they cope.

The characters are familiar to anyone who has ever had a roommate: there's the loud jokester; the quiet wallflower; the ladies' man; and the guy who's always stressed and wants to move out.

It's based, at least partially, on the experiences James had when he went off to college.

"It starts out funny," Ludlam says, "and winds up with a serious message."

Ludlam has been active in the theater program for all four years at Central and has performed in virtually every major production.

This, though, is his first experience with experimental theater, and his first shot at directing what is almost an entirely student-run production. …