The Illinois State University School of Theatre and Dance presents Balm in Gilead by Lanford Wilson, directed by John Tovar. The production opens at 7:30 p.m. April 13. Performances will be held in the Center for the Performing Arts Theatre and will run through April 21.
Set in a greasy all-night diner in New York City, Balm in Gilead dives into the fringes of society—riff-raff, prostitutes, hustlers, and thieves—who are lost in a world that has shown no mercy. Joe, a heroin addict, and Darlene, a new arrival to the big city, spend the night together. Joe soon pushes Darlene away, overwhelmed by his debt to a local drug dealer. Meanwhile, Darlene finds herself increasingly vulnerable to the low-life men around the café. Balm in Gilead explores how desperate people, when left with few choices, turn to criminal activities for temporary relief from their own despair.
Balm in Gilead is an important work in the history of notable ISU alumni. Alumnus John Malkovich directed an Off-Broadway revival of the play, co-produced by the Circle Repertory Company and Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 1984. The cast featured alumna Laurie Metcalf, who was highly praised for her performance, specifically for her 20-minute monologue in Act Two.
The play’s title is inspired by a quote from the Old Testament:
“Go up into Gilead, and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt:
In vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured.” (Jeremiah 46:11)
“Balm in Gilead represents a glimpse into a world that the audience knows exists but may be afraid to engage,” says director John Tovar. “I find these types of stories fascinating because, even though the circumstances of these characters may be different from our own, we have all felt lost or forgotten at some point in our lives.”
Balm in Gilead runs April 13, 14, 17-21 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on April 15 at 2 p.m. Performances will take place in the Center for the Performing Arts Theatre. For tickets or more information, contact the College of Fine Arts Box Office, which is located in the Illinois State University Center for the Performing Arts and is open 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Friday, at (309) 438-2535; or purchase tickets online by visiting ticketmaster.com. Tickets are $12 for students and seniors and $17 for adults. Free performance parking is available in the School Street Parking Deck in spots 250 and above, at 400 West Beaufort Street in Normal.