Love, deceit, jealousy in Ripon College comic play ‘Private Eyes’

Steven Dietz’s play “Private Eyes,” a comic mystery of passion, deceit and jealousy, will open the Ripon College Theatre Department’s 2015-16 season Sept. 30 through Oct. 3. Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Benstead Theatre, C.J. Rodman Center for the Arts, on the College’s campus. Tickets are free, but reservations are recommended by calling 920-748-8791; or emailing [email protected]

Dietz is a brainy and widely produced playwright who is in the top 10 of annually produced playwrights (excluding Shakespeare). His adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” is widely seen in regional theatre, and his other plays can focus on the political, such as the intense and frightening such as “God’s County,” or comedy, betrayal and deception, says Dr. Robert Amsden, the play’s director and professor of theatre.

In a script note for “Private Eyes,” Dietz says the play “started as a lie,” and the idea grew into a dramatic structure that spirals and turns, continually surprising the audience, as Matthew, played by Connor Cummiskey ’16, struggles to discover the truth about his circumstances.

The story is a mystery in which both Matthew and the audience are sleuths in a “relationship thriller” that takes the characters and the audience through an interpersonal hall of mirrors.

Amsden spent many hours with the script to discover the playwright’s “sleight of hand” used to the blur distinction between illusion and reality. “It is really a fun play to work on and will be an exciting journey for audiences,” he says. “One reviewer described it as a ‘Chinese box full of tricks and surprises.’ The playwright is quite witty, so the actors have some good opportunities to make the audience laugh.”

The cast is rounded out with Savannah White ’19, Mike Baumhardt ’18, Amanda Marcyjanik ’19 and Amber Haugan ’19. The chorus of stagehands includes Enya Nett ’16, Tekoa Wittman ’18, Sussie Shively ’18, Melany Castillo ’19, Carly Lundt ’16 and Alyssa Kollman ’19.

Set and lighting design and technical direction are by John Dalziel, associate professor of theatre; and the costume designer and costumer is Susan Hill, costume designer and shop supervisor.

(Photo: Matthew, played by senior Connor Cummiskey of Hamburg, Minnesota, left, confronts Lisa, first-year Savannah White of Carol Stream, Illinois, and Adrian, sophomore Mike Baumhardt of Richfield, Wisconsin, in the psychological mystery of love and jealousy.)

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Promo image for theatre production of "Private Eyes"