The House of Blue Leaves

Click on the thumbnails below to view pictures from
the Top Banana production of

The House of Blue Leaves

by John Guare.

When you click, the resulting picture (if shrunken to fit your window) can usually be enlarged by clicking a BIGGER, DAMN IT! button that will appear in the bottom right hand corner of the picture. I have a lot of favorites among the shows I've directed. Among the shows I've acted in, this was probably the nearest to perfect. Lars did a fabulous job as director and the cast was terrific; I had to work hard to keep up with them.

Artie, his dreams shattered and faced with the prospect of spending the rest of his life caring for his mad wife Bananas, strangles her. And then...

Artie finally gets his blue spotlight. And madness.

CAST in order of appearance

Artie Shaughnessy: Craig Gustafson
Bunny Flingus: Pam Turlow
Bananas Shaughnessy: Joy E. Kenyon
Ronnie Shaughnessy: Chris Weninger
Corrina Stroller: Julie Rodgers
Head Nun: Karin Kramer
Second Nun: Elizabeth Monti
Little Nun: Margie Gustafson
White Man: Dean Sasman
M.P.: Brian Pedigo, Dan Muir
Billy Einhorn: Jack Smith

Directed by Lars Timpa
Asst. Director/Stage Manager: Kimberly D. Smith
House Manager: Maureen Weitzenfeld
Costumes, Props, Set Painting, Etc: Linda Gustafson

From the Wheaton Leader,
February 3, 1999:
Top Banana's 'House of Blue Leaves' bears fruit
By Darlene Ostrowski
Lifestyle Editor

Each of the characters in Top Banana's production of "The House of Blue Leaves" has a dream - big or small, grand or insane.

Alternately hysterically funny, poignant and disturbing, the play examines what happens when one person's dreams don't quite fit with another's.

Director Lars Timpa has assembled a talented cast for John Guare's dark comedy, which is set in October 1965 in a dingy Queens apartment.

The story centers on Artie Shaughnessy, portrayed with blue-collar hangdog charm by Craig Gustafson. A down-on-his-luck zookeeper by day and song-writer by night, Artie dreams of stardom, peddling his work at amateur nights where he can't even get a decent spotlight.

Although he possesses more drive than talent, Artie can bang out a tune on virtually any subject, rhyming "comical" with "yarmulke" as he sings about the Pope's impending visit to New York.

Pam Turlow as Artie's mistress, Bunny Flingus, steals her scenes with manic, comic energy and a New York twang thicker than Manhattan smog. Clad in a fluffy pink fur and plastic boots, she has gained her life's wisdom through a seemingly endless parade of odd jobs.

And although they've been dating for a few months, she still refuses to give Artie what all men want from women - a good, home-cooked meal. "Cook for me!" Artie begs, seductively brandishing eggs, as Bunny demurs, "Not until I have that ring on my cooking finger."

Bunny dreams of moving to California with Artie, believing he surely will find fame with help from his Hollywood mogul friend, Billy Einhorn. But one person stands in the way - Bananas, Artie's wife, who's never been quite the same after her nervous breakdown.

Joy E. Kenyon's nuanced portrayal of the beleaguered housewife keeps the audience guessing as to just how sane she is. In one moment she obsesses hysterically about her fingernails of varying lengths. In the next, she listens to the goings-on in her home with a certain knowing gleam in her eye. Kenyon takes care to make Bananas' character likable, rather than focusing on her madness as characterization.

Artie continually teeters on the edge of putting Bananas in a home. "I really miss you sometimes," he tells his wife sadly during one of her flashes of sanity. Meanwhile, Bananas simply dreams of having a normal life, where she can cook, clean and leave the house without fear.

As if Artie's home life didn't have enough problems, his young son, also disturbed, wants to blow up the Pope.

Chris Weninger, a Wheaton resident and student at Wheaton-Warrenville South High School, gives Artie's son, Ronnie, just the right edge of John Hinckley-esque adolescent madness. Ronnie, who has gone AWOL from the armed services, explains that after this grand gesture, the entire world will stand up and notice him.

Rounding out the cast are Julie Rodgers in a brief but enjoyable turn as Corinna Stroller, the blonde, fashionable starlet with a secret; Jack Smith as Billy Einhorn, who must set a record for a man's longest onstage crying jag; and Margie Gustafson, Karin Kramer and Elizabeth Monti, adorable and exuberant as three nuns bound and determined to see His Holiness - even if they have to do so on Artie's tiny TV set.

In one way or another, each character moves a little closer to achieving his or her dream - except, perhaps, Artie, who then must take matters into his own hands.

"House of Blue Leaves" continues at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 14. Performances take place at the Oakbrook Terrace Park District Building, 1S325 Ardmore Ave. For more information, call 393-2454.

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© 2005 by Craig Gustafson