A play opening in Des Moines tonight focuses on a hostage situation in Lebanon more than 20 years ago, but one of the actors says it lends new meaning and insight into today’s warfare in Iraq. Mike Cornelison is a West Des Moines-based actor who’s appeared in movies and TV shows since the 1970s. He says "Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me," by playwright Frank McGuinness, is based on a true story.
The 54-year-old Cornelison, an Atlantic native, says McGuinness saw the play "as a metaphor for the fact all of Western civilization is being held hostage to the whole Middle East situation. So you have an Irishman, an Englishman and an American in a cell being held by kids for years and years. It’s a pretty intense situation." Despite the dark setting, he says it’s also hilarious.
Cornelison plays the Irishman, a reporter, who’s taken hostage in 1985 Beirut. He says "The key to it is that he’s the funniest of the three and that’s one of the surprising things about the play. Out of that situation, you get an evening that’s not only intense but it’s really entertaining. It’s really funny." He says the hostages are able to endure their captivity through communication, humor and faith.
While a generation is too young to remember the horror of Lebanon in the 1980s, Cornelison says any audience will see a reflection of modern day in the lessons of this past hostage crisis. He says "It was more startling 20 years ago because people would be taken out of nowhere. Now, it’s sort of part of a larger war, which doesn’t really speak very well for the situation over there. There were individual shocking occurrences back then and now it’s just part of a quagmire, so I think it’s even more relevant."
Cornelison stars in the soon-to-be released "The Final Season," shot last summer in Norway, Iowa. He has a long string of acting credits, including "Hill Street Blues," "Remington Steele" and "Knots Landing," in addition to his first acting job "Cold Turkey" in 1971, which was shot in Greenfield, Iowa, starring Dick Van Dyke. The play, "Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me" is at the Fourth Street Theatre in downtown Des Moines on Fridays through Sundays through February 4th. For more information, surf to " www.vaudevillemews.com/theatre ".