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Curtain Call Theatre stages ‘The Runner Stumbles’ in Mokena

After directing Curtain Call Theatre’s “Crimes of the Heart” in December 2023 Nicki Blowers was looking forward to some rest but then she was called upon to direct another show.

“The Runner Stumbles” began March 1 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays at Front Street Theatre in Mokena. Final performances are at 7:30 p.m. March 8 and 9 and 2 p.m. March 10.

“It’s a show that I really like. I like that it’s very minimalistic. We’re just telling the story. Lights fade in and out to different scenes. It’s a memory play,” said Blowers, who took over as director after Mark Frost had to bow out due to work obligations.

Although Blowers came aboard after the January auditions for “The Runner Stumbles,” she drew on her experience of directing the drama at Joliet Junior College and the support of fellow Curtain Call Theatre board members including leaders Suzanne Helwich and June Graffy.

“The title is very good. These two people are running for their lives and they stumble by falling for each other,” said Blowers, a former technical supervisor for theater who retired in 2020 after working at Joliet Junior College for 35 years.

Milan Stitt wrote the play “The Runner Stumbles,” which opened in 1976 on Broadway, and the 1979 film of the same name starring Dick Van Dyke, Kathleen Quinlan, Maureen Stapleton, Ray Bolger, Tammy Grimes and Beau Bridges.

“It’s based on this real-life murder where the priest was accused of killing the nun,” said Blowers about “The Runner Stumbles,” which is based on the true story of the Rev. Andrew Bieniawski being accused of murdering Sister Mary Janina (nee Josephine Mezek), who went missing in 1907 in northern Michigan.

“It’s about being your authentic self, who we really are and what you are hiding from. Do you really have a vocation or are you hiding from something? Both of the two main characters are. It’s more about relationships and how they form.”

Husband and wife Ken and Beth Czechanski lead the cast of “The Runner Stumbles” as Father Rivard, who is on trial, and Sister Rita, respectively.

Other actors include Jim Berard, David Bruce, Katherine Carl, Matt Carey, Dawn DeVries, Jo O’Brien and Patrick Whalen.

“There’s an immense amount of talent,” said Blowers of Joliet about the cast, which includes Frankfort, Lockport and New Lenox residents.

“They don’t neglect to do what they need to do to build a successful character and also to get all the little technical things done. They’re very good technically in terms of movement. I direct in a way that’s more of a ‘Go with what your impulses are.’”

Curtain Call Theatre concludes its 2023-24 season with board secretary Carey directing the comedy “You Can’t Take It With You” by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman from May 31 to June 9.

‘The Runner Stumbles’

When: March 1-10

Where: Curtain Call Theatre’s Front Street Theatre, 11112 Front St., Mokena

Tickets: $22

Information: 708-607-2281;

Jessi Virtusio is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.


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