REVIEW: Bettendorf Accountant Makes Impassioned, Impressive Debut With New Playcrafters Show
Embezzlement, fraud investigation, and misuse of state research and development reimbursements wouldn’t seem at first glance to make fertile ground for comedy and romantic sparks.
But they say write what you know, right? Jim Sederquist, a 39-year-old accountant who lives in Bettendorf and loves to write, adds up his years of number-crunching in supremely suspenseful, entertaining fashion in his first full-length play, “The Whistleblower’s Dilemma,” given a top-notch production at Playcrafters Barn Theatre as part of its original Barn Owl season.
“New work is an incredibly important part of the global theatre community, and it’s wonderful that Playcrafters recognizes that local playwrights have stories to be told and shared with our community,” director Mike Turczynski wrote for the program. He said that Sederquist – cousin of co-star Andy Sederquist here – has “done a fantastic job building a fun world for us to explore. From some overbearing bosses to some quirky best friends, to our protagonists both
searching for solutions but taking the long way around, we have all the makings for a really fun story that still brings a lot of heart.”
In “The Whistleblower’s Dilemma” at the Barn Theatre, 4950 35th Ave., Moline, the stand-up, straight-arrow Joe (Andy Curtiss) loves his community and the components factory that his grandfather helped build from scratch. As finance director, when he discovers the factory’s current owner is embezzling millions of dollars from the state, and setting Joe up to take the blame, he decides to take an unusual route: he makes the fraud bigger – by just $15, to take advantage of a whistleblower’s statute that will return half the proceeds back to him to save the factory.
On a parallel track for justice, the similarly smart and determined Jackie (Sara Laufer) is a relentless, star fraud investigator but frustrated with her office’s politics. When she stumbles on something big that just happens to be at the wrong time of the year (namely Joe’s case), she’s forced to not ask any questions. But that doesn’t stop her from investigating.
How does it end up for Joe and Jackie, and do their romantic sparks catch fire? And how are cell phones, yoga, and a rolling whiteboard stored in a bathroom involved? Curtiss and Laufer are both outstanding in their confident roles – making obscure state regulations and
accounting practices seem totally relatable, and making us totally care both about the fate of Joe’s family business and their fated relationship.
They each are contrasted by even more relatable best friends – Andy Sederquist as the factory IT guy Dan, the loose and funny foil for the uptight but still humorous Joe, and Elle Winchester as Dan’s sister, the yoga-obsessed Madeline, pal to Jackie. The great cast is rounded out by cartoonish, big personality bosses – Greg O’Neill as the slimy, callous, conniving factory owner, and Kassidy Holdridge as the ditzy blonde state bureaucrat, more concerned with playing “Angry Birds” than prosecuting fraud.
O’Neill (after his boss Gerald disappears in the story for a Fiji vacation) takes on even more comic relief with two other colorful characters later in the play, Pete and John. In real life, O’Neill is married to Laufer, whom he met in 2008 during Playcrafters’ production of the musical “Promises, Promises.” Though there’s no music in “Whistleblower’s Dilemma,” it fairly sings with righteous indignation, pursuit of justice and the equally elusive capture of love.
Turczynski of Rock Island directs the show with a lot of heart, with equal attention to the drama and comedy inherent in the script. He also handled the set design, sound design, and operating lights and sound, as his wife Marni is stage manager and in charge of props. I recognized a rear set banner (as part of Joe’s apartment) that seems a nod to Andy Curtiss’ Genesius Guild experience (the troupe’s ancient helmet logo). Curtiss’ booming voice and wry, dry sense of humor are consistent highlights in the new play.
Playcrafters is requiring all audience and cast members to wear masks, but the extra prop didn’t deter from understanding the actors’ lines at all. I think masks did detract from the very last action in the play, but I’m not positive (watch for it yourself!).
Jimmy Sederquist said after the show that he did a lot of creative writing growing up as a kid in Orion, but didn’t really do anything with it until after high school.
“I did musicals with Music Guild after college and right after, then I joined up with the ComedySportz crew in 2011,” he said. “Doing all of those scenes with improv gets your creative juices even after you are done with the improv show. An idea for a really short play came to my head, I wrote it out, and then I submitted it to the Augustana Quad Cities Playwright Festival in 2018. They did a staged reading of it that was a lot of fun, and I was hooked!”
Three of his short plays have been staged at the Village Theatre as part of the Q-C Playwrights’ Festival. Sederquist’s solid “Whistleblower’s Dilemma” will continue this next Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. Reservations can be made by calling the Playcrafters box office at 309-762-0330 or by visiting www.playcrafters.com.
General admission is $12 and military and senior admission is $10. All audience members will be required to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.