Who knew that something as benign as bingo could be a cutthroat, super-competitive soap opera, complete with callers enjoying something extra for announcing the right bingo balls, zany rituals performed over cards, rice-cereal-treat bribes, and WWE-style heels and heroes? It just goes to show that the competitiveness of the human experience filters even into the most unlikely and folksy slices of Americana, as demonstrated in Bingo! The Winning Musical, the kooky musical offering at Moline's Playcrafters Barn Theatre.

With the popularity of television series such as Downton Abbey and The Crown, contemporary audiences have become intrigued by, even addicted to, European aristocracy. I can’t help but think that in comparison to the many works of William Shakespeare, our obsession with binge-worthy TV must be like attending live theatre over 400 years ago. Take, for example, the twisted path of dysfunction, poor leadership, and random acts of stupidity as illustrated in Shakespeare’s tug-of-war tale King John.

Does sex sell? That question is dissected by every Marketing 101 class every semester on virtually every college campus. Professors will have students review magazine ads, Web-site pop-ups, and television commercials. They study the branding of perfume, women's-underwear slogans, and the sensuality of eating a luscious cheeseburger. I think most can agree that sex does sell. And if theatre is any indication, the older the targeted market, the better it sells! Just check out the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's Sex Please, We're 60, and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Clue: The Musical is the latest production to open in this wonderfully intimate venue in downtown Moline, and speaking candidly, I was blown away by the packed house as audience members loudly chattered away before the opening curtain. It was as if they all had been cooped up in their homes for the last 24 hours, but needed to venture out just to see a classic board game brought to life via a Broadway-esque style musical.

Maybe our virtual lives are just as important as our physical lives. To some, maybe, they're more important.

Each of the collective 11 scenes lasts mere minutes and usually employs no more than two actors on-stage at a time, with no more than three actors in any given scene. But the beauty of the script is its poignant, witty, heartbreaking, and hopeful look at the one thing that bonds these characters under the Northern Lights on a bitter Maine night: love.

When director Catherine Bodenbender took center stage at the show's precise curtain time, she reminded the audience to silence their phones and provided a few additional tidbits of information. And then – like a stage manager would typically do behind the scenes – she yelled, “Actors: Places!”, and the cast marched out from their backstage dressing area and took their seats behind the audience. I thought: “This is gonna be cool.”

On the night of August 25, this one spoken line stuck in my head like newly poured concrete – clammy and heavy while slowly thickening in my mind. I can only imagine that most of us have been stuck at some point, but this didn't refer to the everyday kind of stuck. It wasn't about something normal such as being trapped in traffic, or having writer's block, or doing the same workout over and over. No, this question asked in a play referred to an endless hamster wheel of shame and humiliation stigmatized by one poor life choice.

I am biased. Because as a former member (1985-86) of our area's performing wait staff of Bootleggers, I watched No Business Like Show Business feeling proud, and even blessed, to experience this stage retrospective – a celebration of the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's 40 years of producing live theatre in the Quad Cities.

Across the street from my childhood home was an open lot with worn-down dirt spots and paths etched into the grass, shaping a makeshift baseball diamond – like something from the film The Sandlot. I played ball there every summer, all summer, from kindergarten through high school, and getting a new baseball glove was always the best, except when you initially put the glove on your hand and realized it was stiff and awkward.

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