George Strader, Andrew King, and Patrick Adamson"Is that ahi tuna?"

"No. It's a-ha tuna. This is a comedy interview."

So went a not-atypical exchange during my recent conversation with area comedians George Strader, Patrick Adamson, and Andrew King. (It was George who asked about the tuna and Patrick who ordered it. If you were wondering, Andrew had a burger.) But while the jokes and laughs tended to come fast and furious during our chat, there was one thing this trio was dead-serious about: The Quad Cities' comedy scene has, since the beginning of this decade, been enjoying a pretty dramatic renaissance. A pretty inspiring one, too.

Joshua Kahn, Jordan Smith, and Cayte McClanathan in Ghost of a ChanceI could've left Saturday's Playcrafters Barn Theatre production of Ghost of a Chance at intermission and been quite pleased with the evening's entertainment. Unfortunately, I exited after the night's second act frustrated almost to the point of anger - not at director Patti Flaherty or her cast, but at the show's playwrights Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus.

Titanic Aftermath ensemble membersAs Oregon-based playwright Michael Wehrli is the author of Titanic Aftermath - the historical drama being staged at Moline's Playcrafters Barn Theatre May 11 through 20 - I initially presume that he's seen James Cameron's Oscar-winning movie. In our April 25 phone interview, he tells me he has, and that it was even the inspiration for his play.

That's not exactly the compliment it might seem, though, considering he calls Cameron's Titanic "visually stunning and incredibly, maddeningly frustrating because of the fictional characters.

"I mean, they took up half the story," says Wehrli of the young lovers played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, "and it was the actual survivors' stories, to me, that were ... interesting. That, and the corporate-negligence side to the tragedy, which is hardly ever addressed in dramatic form.

"So I thought, 'All right, well, I'm just going to write a play about all this.'" Wehrli laughs. "'How the hell do I do that?'"

Jordan Smith and Joshua Kahn in Rehearsal for MurderThe Playcrafters Barn Theatre's production of Rehearsal for Murder suffers from poor pacing, but excels in its sincere sentiment and charm. The actors, for the most part, tend to take too many beats between lines, which leads to sometimes-clunky dialogue progression. Still, Friday night's performance was appealing for its overall emotional effect, and likable for the cast's ability to move the audience to sympathetic sorrow for the main character's heartache.

Jamie Em Behncke and Susan Perrin-Sallak in And They Dance Real Slow in JacksonA day after seeing it, I still can't decide whether I like playwright Jim Leonard Jr.'s And They Dance Real Slow in Jackson, but I do know that I appreciate director Patti Flaherty's efforts in staging this nonlinear tale for New Ground Theatre. During Friday's performance, I struggled to follow the action, as Leonard's script confusingly jumps back and forth in time. Thankfully, however, Flaherty's directorial work helps create some clarity to the "when" with which we're dealing.

Eddie Staver III and Denise Yoder in Oedipus RexSure, it's the Greek tragedy to end all Greek tragedies. But is any stage tragedy, Greek or otherwise, as unashamedly, wickedly enjoyable as that of the fall of Oedipus?

Steven Quartell and Asastasiya Bauswell in La LloronaThe Harrison Hilltop Theatre's latest presentation is playwright Kathleen Anderson-Curado's La Llorona, and you won't be reading the review I originally set out to write, because after more than 1,000 words of trying, I couldn't find a way to finish it.

Nina Prescott and Guillermo Jimenez Almanza in Going Underground Offhand, I can think of no theatrical climax this year that has been simpler, sweeter, or more subtly moving than the one in Black Hawk College's Going Underground. All it consists of is actress Miranda Lipes standing center-stage, offering a beatific, tranquil smile while Judy Garland sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," yet the impact of the moment is stronger than you might be prepared for.

The Nerd at Playcrafters Barn Theatre Through September 25

As the lights come up on Playcrafters' production of Larry Shue's The Nerd, we find ourselves in the Terre Haute, Indiana, living room of architect Willum Cubbert (Josh Kahn), whose pseudo-girlfriend, Tansy (Jessica Nicol), and drama-critic friend, Axel (Chris White), are throwing him a surprise birthday party. For about 20 minutes, the three characters chat, and all the while, the light from the evening sky - seen through Willum's living-room windows in the rear of the stage - is going through the most amazing transformation. The reddish-pink hues from outside begin to subtly shift to a lovely magenta, and within time, they will have morphed into a deep, midnight blue with a hint of purple; it's a beautiful, subtle effect, well-achieved by designer Jennifer Kingry.