It Plays in Peoria!

Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2009 by Pat Gaik

'Valentines' an amusing romp
Mary Simon directs production at Conklin's Barn II Dinner Theatre
of the Journal Star
Posted Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:02 PM


GOODFIELD — A can of Cool Whip, a naughty Frederick's of Hollywood nightie and a well-aimed quip at Gov. Rod Blagojevich provide the highlights for "Funny Valentines" at Conklin's Barn II Dinner Theatre.

This amusing farce, which runs through March 1, is a romp through the topsy-turvy world of one Andy Robbins, a children's book illustrator who just can't seem to grow up.

Robbins has been offered the deal of a lifetime by his double-talking yet faithful agent. And it all depends on whether he can win over his former collaborator and practical-minded ex-wife. The question is: Can he do it?

Directed by Mary Simon, this farce is full of twists, turns and, of course, Cool Whip. Simon shows up with the latter in hand as Zan Wilkinson, a program director from a major media company who also happens to be a leggy blonde with a penchant for black lingerie and a major crush on Andy. When Zan isn't seducing the willing Andy, she wants to turn his children's character Bennie the Bear into a major television cartoon with plenty of plastic toy spin-offs.

The deal depends on Andy's ability to grow up - no easy task for this zany character who can't face reality. Played by Dan Challacombe, Andy appears unable to handle life at all: He uses orange pipe cleaner to hold his glasses together and a staple gun to button his shirt. Challacombe has a knack for physical comedy, and he makes the most of it in this show as he quickly turns his back on the audience to zip his fly, cradles his head in his hands in mock anguish or falls to the couch with Zan on top of him.

Miranda Axsom plays straight woman to Andy's lunacy as his pregnant ex-wife, Ellen, a woman who fell in love with Andy's Peter Pan ways only to find a man who never grows up can be as frustrating as he is charming. Pat Gaik does well as Howard Levy, Andy's Maalox-drinking agent who isn't above stretching the truth if personal profit is at issue. (The audience laughed and applauded Friday when Andy compared Howard's ethics to those of Blagojevich.) Sara Flanders, meanwhile, turns in a funny and fluid performance as Elizabeth Winslow, Ellen's long-suffering mother who just wishes her temperamental daughter would settle down.

The set, designed and built by Tom Weber, is your typical New York City apartment except for one thing: The profusion of clocks on the walls, in nooks and crannies. There are big clocks, small clocks, old-fashioned pendulum clocks, newfangled clocks and one shaped like a cat - more than two dozen clocks in all. Obviously, they signal time might be running out for Andy, unless he can mend his ways. But to learn the full significance of these timepieces, you'll simply have to make time of your own to travel to Goodfield to see this very amusing show.

'Funny Valentines'

- What: Comedy about famous book illustrator who must overcome his Peter Pan syndrome to win back his ex-wife. Directed by Mary Simon.

- When: Through March 1. Shows Thursday through Saturday evenings (doors open 6 p.m., show 8 p.m.) and Sunday matinees (doors open noon, show 1:30 p.m.).

- Where: Conklin's Barn II Dinner Theatre, Goodfield.

- Admission: $31/Thursday; $33/Friday and Sunday; $35/Saturday (includes tax). Call 965-2545 or visit

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