Angela Rathman in Altar CallWhile the story would benefit from more attention to how and when plot points should unfold, and some of the dialogue would benefit from a greater awareness of how people actually speak, I quite liked the themes that author Melissa McBain explores in Altar Call.

Narrowing down 2009's sensational stage portrayals into a list of 12 "favorites" is a hopeless task, really, so don't take this as any kind of last word on the subject; you'll find mention of amazing stage work all throughout my year-end coverage. Still, here's hoping you were able to catch at least a few of the following performances, which helped underline just how crazy with theatrical talent our area actually is.

Jason Platt, Jerry Wolking, Eddie Staver III, Matt Mercer, and Jacob Kendall in The Boys Next DoorDirector Lora Adams' Village Theatre production of The Boys Next Door opens and closes on the solitary figure of actor Jason Platt, and his portrayal here begs the question: Is there anything the man can't do?

Anna Tunnicliff, Jamie Em Johnson, and Andrea Braddy in The Children's HourOriginally produced in 1934, Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour - the current presentation at the Playcrafters Barn Theatre - concerns a monstrous little boarding-school brat who falsely accuses her headmistresses of engaging in a lesbian affair, a charge that leads to parental panic, financial ruin, and the destruction of several lives. In an era that finds the Iowa Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage, Hellman's melodrama now seems more like a museum piece than it would have even two months ago, and so it was wise of director Patti Flaherty to set her production firmly in the past - even though that past feels less like the 20th Century than 400 BC.