“Household Tales,” a dark comedy by Cleveland Heights playwright Jonathan Wilhelm, will have its world premiere as John Carroll University’s Spring Theatre Department production beginning this Friday, April 16 in Kulas Auditorium.
Wilhelm, who has had an interest in playwriting since his childhood, began by writing his own Tintin adventures, based on a character from the Belgian artist Georges Remi.
Beginning to become more involved in the business, Wilhelm started writing plays called “Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre” in the late 1980s, writing more than two dozen scripts.
“Those [scripts] were the first of my scripts that were publicly performed, and was a really great school in terms of learning,” he said. “It was a great learning ground for how to present exposition, how to end a scene so that the audience is wondering what’s going to happen next and how to create characters.”
‘Household Tales’ follows a newly engaged couple, Giles and Jordan, as they journey through four different households and four unique sets of parents.
According to Wilhelm, its first version was written in 2008 and presented at a staged reading at “The Dark Room,” a local program co-sponsored by the Cleveland Theatre Collective and Cleveland Public Theatre for artists to present their work.
“[During that reading], Karen Gygli (director of ‘Household Tales,’) played the part of all of the mothers,” he said. “She liked the script so much that she asked me, ‘how do you feel about collegiates doing your work?’ I said I would feel great about anybody doing my work.”
Since then, the play has gone through some changes during the rehearsal process, yet its overriding sense of humor has remained constant.
“This play is more of a flat out, farcical comedy [in comparison to my other plays],” said Wilhelm. “I don’t think I can write anything that doesn’t have humor in it, but in ‘Household Tales’ there are definitely more laughs.”
He also indicates the parallels college audiences will find with the characters on stage.
“The play is really about the main character, Giles, trying to forge his own sense of identity by looking back and trying to understand his family,” he said.
“There’s a difference between the family of choice and the family you’ve been given, and I think that’s something that college students can really relate to because they’re at that cusp of being set adrift in the world and trying to break away to forge their own identities.”