“The Solid Gold Cadillac” comes to the Jackson County Stage Company

By Gus Bode

Mary Jo Haine is no stranger to the stage.

Not only has she participated several plays at the Jackson County Stage Company – including “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Barefoot in the Park,” “The Watchmaker,” and “Harvey” – but she has also dabbled in directing and served on the stage company’s play selection committee.

So when Haine, a Carbondale resident, saw “The Solid Gold Cadillac” was next on the stage company’s agenda, she said she thought it was a perfect opportunity to once again become involved.


“It’s a good part for my age,” Haine said. “It’s about a little old woman – and that’s me.”

The show began its run last weekend, with a sold-out opening night. It will continue at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday for the next two weeks. Tickets run $10 for the evening shows and $7 for the matinee.

The story is an updated version of the Broadway play by George S. Kaufman and Howard Teichmann. It revolves around Laura Partridge, a small stockholder for International Projects in New York. Overenthusiastic about a stockholders’ meeting, Partridge sets the corrupt board on edge with her questions about their salaries, the company’s operations and its business affairs.

The plot thickens as Partridge meets former CEO Edward McKeever, who has taken a position at the Pentagon that gives him the power to award federal contracts, and sparks fly. As they develop a friendship, she continues to pester the board with questions.

Because the board of directors turned the formerly honest corporation into a crooked business after McKeever resigned, they decide something must be done about Partridge. As a disguised bribe, they give her a high-paying job in the corporation, expecting her to do nothing and even hoping to use her to get to McKeever.

However, Partridge isn’t the type to lie quietly. Getting a whiff of their intentions, she begins to write to other stockholders in the company and eventually teams up with McKeever to try and save the company.

Haine said she was delighted to land the main role of Partridge, saying about her chances, “You never know until you audition.”


This was the case with Makanda resident Bob Radtke. Radtke, who plays McKeever, is new to the stage company – in fact, he has not acted in a play since high school.

That did not stop him from attending other’s performances, though.

Radtke, a retired psychology professor at SIUC, said he and his wife have been attending the stage company’s shows for many years. He said he only auditioned when asked by his long-time acquaintance, Director Christian Moe.

“I never though I would ever be on stage,” he said. “That was the farthest thing from my mind.”

Although he was asked to audition, Radtke said he was surprised he landed the main role because of his negligible acting background. Despite the struggle to learn the lines and stage actions, he said he has enjoyed his foray into the arts, although he is unsure whether he will be acting in any other plays.

“It’s time-consuming,” he said. “It surprised me how hard people work in terms of the amount of time they put in, but it’s worth it.

“At first it was kind of work, and now it’s kind of fun, so we’ll see what happens.”

And a lot of work has been poured into this play. The cast has been preparing three to four hours a night, five nights a week since mid-October to put on the production. Although the workload has been heavy, the actors say the result is worth the time and effort.

Carbondale resident Jo Ann Hensley, who plays Partridge’s secretary, said she found the work pleasurable. Although she agreed the play was time consuming, she said she feels a sense of accomplishment when it the play comes together on opening night.

“It’s such a wonderful, creative, stimulating hobby,” she said.

Hensley, an eighth-grade special education teacher at Murphysboro Middle School, said acting gives her something different to look forward to after she finishes her nine-to-five job.

She said she got involved with this play partly because of Moe, who she called an expert at comedy direction.

Moe, who helped choose the stage company’s line-up this season, said he volunteered to direct the play because he believed it was timely for the holidays and dealt with important subjects, such as corporate greed.

He said although it was a challenge to accurately update the play, make sets that would work with the small stage and train the new actors in stage movement, the play has come along nicely.

And the new faces have been nice for everyone.

“This is a community effort,” Haine said. “It’s so nice to have new people who want to come and join us and participate by doing a role and contribute.”