One of Joe DePauw's smartest directorial choices for the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's A Turn for the Nurse was to avoid camp. His cast doesn't play the crime farce for laughs and, as a result, may get more of them than they otherwise might've; to be sure, Saturday's audience was offering up laughter aplenty throughout the performance.

Friday night's presentation of 100 Saints You Should Know played to a half-capacity audience, which is a shame; New Ground Theatre's poignantly personal play deserves more attention, due to its thoughtful script and equally thoughtful performances. And while playwright Kate Fodor's themes of spirituality and sexuality may put off some potential spectators, the story is much more inclusive, in terms of philosophical perspectives, than those themes might suggest.

 

Grease ensemble membersI approached Thursday's preview performance of Quad City Music Guild's Grease with preconceived opinions, not the least of which was that Grease is one of the few stage musicals that greatly improved in its transition to film. Not one of the half-dozen or so stage productions of this 1950's-themed high school musical I'd seen convinced me that the show was much good in its theatrical form; at best, I hoped for some notable performances in a musical I still wouldn't like. I didn't expect that great performances from the entire cast would have me re-thinking my entire opinion of Grease. They did.

Fences might more aptly be titled Porches, as author August Wilson's characters spend much of the play sitting on a porch, swapping stories. Yet the script is so well written - with its raw, realistic dialogue and slice-of-life style - that it's not surprising that Wilson's drama won both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1987 and the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play just last month. And while Monday night's preview performance of the Playcrafters Barn Theatre's Fences wasn't quite at the award-worthy level, the production shouldn't be overlooked when planning a night at the theatre.

(seated) Ava Miller, Sarah Loula, Hannah King, and Michaela Garrison; (standing) Stephanie Moeller, Faith Rebekah, and Adam Overberg in A Midsummer Night's DreamI arrived at Genesius Guild's Friday-night performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream 10 minutes prior to the start of the show. What would otherwise be adequate arrival time for most of the Guild's performances proved a problem for this one - I could not find a seat. Other than a few spots on the not-comfortable-enough-for-more-than-two-hours bleachers, the seats were filled. With patrons already staking out spots on the surrounding lawn, I was forced to return to my car, grab a lawn chair, and jockey for a position to best view the night's performance.

Janell Just and Pat Flaherty in AndromacheWhile waiting for Sunday night's performance of Euripides' Andromache to begin, I contemplated the ways in which Genesius Guild is a Quad Cities treasure. Not that it's necessarily greater than any other local group, but it's definitely unique; performing in the open-air setting of Lincoln Park, Genesius Guild provides a theatrical experience unmatched in the area. In the case of Andromache, the play's genre is also exclusive to Genesius Guild, as the organization the only local theatre group regularly performing Greek tragedy.

At the end of Act I at Saturday's Clinton Area Showboat Theatre presentation of Noises Off, the couple sitting next to me said they weren't going to stay for the remainder of the play. (They, along with the rest of the audience, hadn't laughed all that much during the first portion of this comedy.) Apparently, however, the two changed their minds during intermission and did stay - and it was a good choice, as the show grew progressively funnier over the next two acts.

J. Adam Lounsberry, Tracy Pelzer-Timm, Jenny Winn, and Nathan Bates in Guys & DollsWith its whopping cast size and an equally daunting song list, Guys & Dolls doesn't seem like the best choice for a rookie director. But that didn't stop local actor Jason Platt from taking the helm of Quad City Music Guild's first summer offering, and making a darned good run of it. To be sure, the Thursday-night preview show either needed a few major cuts to shave off at least 20 minutes of the two-hours-and-50-minute (including intermission) run time, or a quicker musical pace set by music director Charles DCamp. However, the lead vocal performances were phenomenal, the female dance numbers were great fun to watch, and the set design and high-quality costumes effectively represented New York City, circa 1940.

Janos Horvath, Tristan Tapscott, Bret Churchill, Elizabeth Miller, and Sara Nicks in Go, Dog. Go!Clocking in at just under 50 minutes at the opening matinée, the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's (under) 21 Youth Theatre's adaptation of Go, Dog. Go! is a great opportunity for preschool and early school-aged kids to experience their first local-theatre production. (In retrospect, I could've even taken my 20-month-old daughter, along with a Snack Trap and three refills of Cheerios.) The show features a series of simple vignettes plucked from the pages of P.D. Eastman's 1961 children's-book classic about the friendship between six adorable canines. And while the general lack of dialogue or a steady plotline may bore some adults, the rudimentary yet whimsical scenes and characters will likely appeal to the under-10 crowd.

Adam Michael Lewis, Aaron Randolph III, and Mike Schulz in ArtI distinctly remember, in 1998, watching a PBS documentary prior to the 52nd Tony Awards ceremony, one in which I was enraptured by a segment featuring a nominated play. Captivating me with its quick-paced, witty, and sharp-tongued dialogue, the play was author Yasmina Reza's Art, and the clip featured the original Broadway cast of Alan Alda, Victor Garber, and Alfred Molina, making my desire to see it all the deeper. The show's premise, though, seemed almost stupid, involving the purchase of a white painting for $200,000. "How could anyone create a play around that concept," I thought, "and make it remotely interesting?"

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