COTTAGE GROVE — For their fall play, Park High School Theater will take audiences back behind the Iron Curtain.
Park's production of the Woody Allen Cold War comedy "Don't Drink the Water" runs 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3.
The action is set in a communist country in the early 1960s, where the American embassy gets some surprise guests: Walter and Marion Hollander from Newark, N.J.
The pushy, panicked American tourists are suspected of espionage by local authorities. It seems Walter ignored his wife's admonition not to take photos of a military installation. The embassy's temporary minder, the bumbling Axel, tries to formulate a plan to help the Hollanders escape from Krojak, the villainous head of the intelligence service.
Krojak is usually played by a man, but director Quinn Masterson cast student Jada Lilleboe in the role. Can a soft-spoken teen transform herself into a threatening communist thug? Well, that's why they call it acting.
"I really have to let go of myself," Lilleboe said. "I have to get in the mindset of someone who's a nasty person. The text helps me a lot. The words help me understand a lot about my character .... I think it's cool having a powerful female figure in the role of a police officer."
While the clueless, bickering Hollanders drive the embassy staff crazy, Axel, clearly out of his depth, tries to cope with the mounting international crisis. Meanwhile, he's developing feelings for the couple's daughter, Susan. But she's engaged to another woman. The romantic leads are Aries LaChapelle, and Sadie Jones, both of whom are making their Park Theater debut. Jones, a freshman, understands that Susan is more than a mere ingenue.
"She's very spirited," Jones said of her character. "She's easily fascinated by the little things. I feel like I can relate to Susan."
Director Masterson said he chose the play in part because its large cast provides more opportunities for students. A significant number of freshmen, juniors and seniors are making their Park High School Theater debut, he said.
"I was drawn to it because it was the very first play I ever saw at my high school," Masterson said.
"Don't Drink the Water" debuted in 1966, a time when countries in the Soviet bloc were cut off from the rest of the world.
The play also features E. Dominic, Marisa Schwab, Michael Hodge, Audrey Johnston-Ecker, Brielle Hamilton and Olivia Bedard.
Supporting cast includes Finegan Barrett, Magdalene Maruska, Abby Reckinger, Octi Werle, Nolan Jones, Maggie Storm, Evan Villas and Emily Merrill.
The production team includes student director Gwen Martin, stage manager Grace Sicard, assistant stage manager Avery Weston, student technical director Treyton BurrellDire and costumer Mary Wellman.
Tickets to "Don't Drink the Water" are $4-6 and can be purchased online at https://tickets.vendini.com. Tickets can also be purchased an hour prior to show time at the door. The Park High School Theater box office is located in the atrium of Park High School. If you have any questions, please email ParkHSTickets@gmail.com.