© 2023 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Major tech upgrade underway at WGLT. Thanks for your patience!

GLT Datebook: 'Table Manners' Serves Up Tasty Farce

cast of Table Manners
Geoff Hughes
Heartland Theater
That's Dave Krostal as Norman in the middle of a family farce. Joining him (L to R) are Kayla Russell as Ruth, Blair Coats as Sarah, Abby Scott as Annie, Adam Alexander as Tom, and John D. Poling as Reg.

Don’t talk with your mouth full. Keep your elbows off the table. Avoid picking your teeth with the salad fork.

Got that? OK. Forget it. These aren’t the table manners you’ll need at Heartland Theater’s latest production. It’s the very British comedy, “Table Manners,” by Alan Ayckbourn. Opening April 4 and running through the 20th, the play is a part of The Norman Conquests Trilogy, though it stands alone nicely, revealed director Joe McDonnell.

“It’s a comedic English farce that is essentially about a family, who have gathered together in their mother’s home for a variety of purposes. And they do not belong together under any circumstances,” McDonnell said with a grin.

Joe McDonnell
Credit Laura Kennedy / WGLT
Joe McDonnell is the director of "Table Manners." He brings a wealth of show business experience to bear on the show.

Much of the action revolves around the character of Norman and his antics.

“Norman is an utterly self-absorbed romantic,” explained McDonnell. “He just wants attention because his wife just doesn’t give him any. So, he’s desperate to give love, as he would put it. But it’s really just to bring attention to himself.” 

The play takes place entirely in a dining room over the course of two days.

“It’s people having conversations and showing why they don’t get along. It’s all under the guise of, ‘Let’s just have a nice family dinner.’ It’s Thanksgiving at anyone’s house, pretty much.” 

Expect to see yourself and members of your family in this show, said McDonnell. “That’s the whole point of theater to me. To reflect who we are back at us, so we can say, ‘Oh, that’s what I look like? Maybe I do or don’t want to be that.” 

McDonnell brings a lifetime of experience in professional theater, having recently relocated from New York to the Twin Cities.  

“The thing about the theater is it’s live people, expressing and communicating with other live people in real time. The younger generations are complaining that they feel disconnected and that electronics have made them feel alienated. Well, guess what? We all get locked in a room for two-plus hours together, and it’s real people giving their real hearts and souls on the stage. You’re just not going to find that anyplace else.” 

During the run of “Table Manners,” Heartland Theater is featuring the campaign “Fill the Table” for Home Sweet Home Ministries. Heartland is asking its patrons to bring much needed items for the food pantry to the theatre with them, including canned chicken and tuna, cooking oil, pasta sauce, low sodium items, canned fruit, coffee and tea, plus other shelf-stable items the audience may wish to donate. All ticket holders who donate items to the campaign will be entered into a prize drawing that includes Heartland show tickets and more.

WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.

Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.