The Book of Liz offers a cheese ball of humor

BY BEN EVANS | OCTOBER 08, 2009 7:20 AM

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The sign “Wet Paint” sits on a stone sidewalk among blades of green grass sticking up through the cracks. A street curves past brilliant flowers, leading to a solitary room with a lone door, white walls, and hardwood floors. At first, the sight is lonely and dull, and every inch seems to whisper: simplicity.

The scene is by no means ordinary or usual, and a second look reveals something extraordinary — all of it, the sign, the flowers, and even the room, is housed in a giant construction of an open book.

This strangely enticing spectacle is the sublime set of the UI theater department’s season-opener, The Book of Liz.

The production will open today and run through Oct. 18 in the Theatre Building’s Thayer Theatre.

The show will start at 8 p.m.; admission is $5 for students and $10 to $17 for the public.

The Book of Liz is the witty and ridiculous brainchild of the traditionally off-color brother and sister duo David and Amy Sedaris. It tells the story of the substantially sweaty Sister Elizabeth Donderstock, who makes her “Squeamish” pre-industrial community’s most popular export, cheese balls — yes, cheese balls. But when the Sister finds that the community is no longer about for her talents, she leaves in order to search for a sense of identity in the outside world.

Katie Consamus, who plays the charming and witty Sister Liz, said audience members will relate to her character.

“She is a kind of woman who is really happy, but whom no one acknowledges,” the actor said. “She is exactly like common women out there.”

Despite Sister Liz being relatable, Consamus said, it is difficult to tap into the mind of her potentially tricky character.

“One of Elizabeth’s quirks is that she is a profuse sweater,” she said. “It’s hard to capture a character like that.”

In addition to the characters’ laughable complexities, the content of The Book of Liz is also amusingly complicated.

The play’s director, Anthony Nelson, said the story centers on the turning point in Sister Liz’s life.

“She is a lonely, misunderstood part of this community,” he said. “She is curious about the outside world and feels that she has been jilted. She comes out into regular society and meets a cast full of crazy characters.”

Through her travels, Sister Liz not only meets a Ukrainian woman in a peanut costume on a street corner but also a few flamboyant waiters and several Alcoholics Anonymous members dressed as pilgrims.

“It is a really sweet 90-minute comedy,” Nelson said. “With this particular production, what I’m aiming for is a quality experience, where you are visually stimulated and stunned a little bit and where you also laugh and cry.”

Nelson also said the story makes a powerful point.

“It’s funny with a great little message — that people should always be reminded of how they treat each other and how they treat themselves in personal relationships,” he said. “The message is about telling people around you how important they are on a daily basis.”

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