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updated: 2/8/2011 12:26 PM

'Ordinary People' opens in West Chicago

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Community High School teacher Mark Begovich was looking for a play that would truly challenge his student actors.

He found it in "Ordinary People," the story of a dysfunctional family's struggle to recover from tragedy involving their two teenage sons, based on the 1978 novel by Judith Guest.

"'Ordinary People' is one of the modern classics of our time," Begovich said. "Even though it is based on a book written in the '70s, it is still contemporary and relatable, especially to today's audiences."

The themes are mature -- anger, depression, guilt, lack of communication and, ultimately, family connection -- but the young actors "have been rising to every challenge," said Begovich, an English and drama teacher at the West Chicago high school.

Audiences will be "uplifted and moved," Begovich said.

"Ordinary People" will be presented Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 10-12, at the school, 326 Joliet St.

Dan Stomper portrays Conrad Jarrett, the surviving son of an upper-middle class suburban family who attempts suicide after his brother is killed in a sailing accident. Others in the 17-member cast include Nadia Pelletier as Conrad's perfectionist mother, Braeden Austgen as his grieving father, and Anthony Soliven as the psychiatrist.

"Ordinary People" is "very different than other shows because it covers topics that are uncomfortable but necessary to talk about because everyone can relate to them," said Tori Snell, who plays Conrad's friend.

"I love being involved in the show," added cast member Kevin Hauber. "It's a great cast -- we're all like family!"

The 20-student crew manages the sets, which include the family's upscale home, the psychiatrist's office and Conrad's school. In a creative touch, a video with images of the family's happier past runs in the background throughout the play.

The show is directed by Begovich with Maggie Haas. James Alfaro and Dominic Lancia are music coordinators, Chris Jensen is set director, Caitlin Kiel is production manager and Jim Anderson is in charge of lights and sound.