It was great to be back at the Timber Lake Playhouse, a capacious space that somehow still has a cozy ambiance.

What would summer in Iowa be without fireworks? And small-town Independence Day celebrations? Ice cream? A marching band? A charming con man? Yep – for me, it's just not summer without The Music Man. This 1957 work by Iowan Meredith Willson (with Franklin Lacey's assist on the story) is my favorite musical. I've seen more productions of it than any other show, and felt lucky to review Countryside Community Theatre's opening-night performance.

We don't just hear about the two Broadway ladies, both of whose careers took off in the 1930s and spanned decades; we also hear about Shelley Cooper's theatrical career. After reading her credits in the program bio, I can say that Cooper is a bona fide musical-theatre luminary herself.

Whether you are shy about trying Shakespeare or are a Bard aficionado, has Genesius Guild got a show for you! The first production of their shortened season, Measure for Measure (abridged), is very funny, well acted, deftly staged, easy to follow, and – so important for an outdoor venue in summer – short.

Drama is conflict, and the Black Box Theatre's current production, titled Hate Mail, reveals its conflict within the first two minutes. As the battle slowly escalated, I wondered how playwrights Bill Corbett and Kira Obolensky could sustain the animosity and keep it building for an entire play. How dark could it get and

The Showboat's former producing artistic director Matthew Teague Miller directed Always ... Patsy Cline, while Kory Danielson is music director and conductor, also playing piano during the performances. Much thought and work no doubt went into staging this production, but Miller, Danielson, and their crew make it seem like it came together spontaneously and organically.

In the longstanding tradition of “show, don't tell,” a story needs a setting or theme to carry it. Star Trek wasn't really about space; Field of Dreams wasn't really about baseball. Stories are about people, memories, and emotions. And although the actors now performing at the Black Box Theatre talk for 90 minutes about pantsuits, gowns, and boots, Love, Loss, & What I Wore isn't really about clothing.

In The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised]director Brent Tubbs has taken the dreary health precautions we've become inured to and turned them into comedic assets.

Family. Love. Money. Major occupiers of our time; continual goals and sources of both stress and joy. We want them and work for them, or in spite of them. They facilitate our dreams, or get in their way. We race toward our desires until Death, who always wins, tells us we're done.

English people have a deserved reputation for rigid politeness, avoiding embarrassment, and keeping improprieties secret. These personality traits help drive much of the comedy of English farces. They drive this English story in an entirely different direction. Inside the proper tea kettle of this crowd, there's a bubbling mass of depravity and perversion threatening to boil, shriek, and spew forth secrets. Here, the unspeakable is spoken – for the most part … eventually … – with plenty of mystery yet to wonder over.