Megan Elliott, Linell Ferguson, Wendy Czekalski, Sara Laufer, and Kris Preston in Hard to Believe"I think Playcrafters has traditionally had the reputation of being a stodgy old theatre that only does six comedies a year," says Tom Morrow, a frequent actor and director for Moline's venerable Barn Theatre. "And admittedly, we do a lot of comedies. But every once in a while, we try to stick our necks out and do something else."

That they do. In addition to the titles produced in conjunction with Playcrafters' 2009 "Diversity Initiative" - Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun and August Wilson's Fences - other recent "something else"s have included 2005's Altar Call, a debuting, religiously themed drama written by local playwright Melissa McBain, and 2008's Promises, Promises, one of only a handful of musicals the theatre has produced during its 81-year history.

And on September 10, the Playcrafters Barn Theatre will actually present something of a blend of these latter two works - a debuting, religiously themed musical - when it premieres Hard to Believe, a song-filled re-telling of the Biblical story of Job, directed by Morrow, and written and composed by Tim Stoller and Jonathan Turner. Previously staged, in workshop form, at Rock Island's defunct Green Room Theatre in 2008 and Davenport's Zion Lutheran Church in 2009, Turner says that "the whole theme of the show is about the challenges of faith, and maintaining your faith in the face of all this tragedy."

Lori Adams and the Pats Flaherty in Living Here New Ground Theatre's Living Here is composed of five one-acts by local playwrights, each one set in the Quad Cities, and I applaud New Ground's decision to stage this showcase for local talent; the production as a whole is more than inspiring, it's important, and the efforts of these theatrical artisans deserve to be seen.

Which doesn't necessarily mean that I liked them all.

Richmond Hill's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opened at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre last Thursday, and I may as well preface by admitting that, before the show started, I couldn't have been more excited, as this classic has long been one of my absolute favorite plays.

How wonderful and humbling the last eight months have been.

Melissa McBain's drama Altar Call, currently playing at Playcrafters' Barn Theatre, is beautifully unresolved. There are many fine elements in this production - along with some not-so-fine ones - yet I was impressed by McBain's willingness to let the drama linger after its close. She introduces potentially volatile subject matter such as adultery, homosexuality, and the dogmatic elements of scripture, yet doesn't attempt to provide easy answers to the play's complexities.

The time: the present invaded by the past. The setting: sanctuaries in the southwest desert. The play: Altar Call. And the playwright: Melissa McBain, who has appropriated one of the country's most volatile current debates - where the church stands on the subject of homosexuality - as her play's subject.

Sean Leary is sticking to basics. The author and producer of the innovative Your Favorite Band believes - despite the unique combinations of film, theatre, and music media used during the performances - that "a good story will always be the key to a successful show. " We'll see whether he followed this maxim and how local audiences respond to his part-live-theatre, part-film show when Your Favorite Band starts a two-week run August 5 at ComedySportz.

Theatre is evolving. While some scripts still relate the story of a unique person or community, it seems more writers are attempting to use representative characters to capture something more universal. These shows often consist of monologues that revolve around a central theme, such as girls' and women's lives in A ... My Name Is Alice and female sexuality in The Vagina Monologues. Sometimes, as in The Vagina Monologues, each component is the result of real-life research and interviews conducted and modified by the playwright.

Most people hated the Interstate 74 bridge construction, but theatre actress and director Melissa McBain loved it. Being stuck on the bridge gave her an opportunity to chat regularly with journalist and author Stephen G. Bloom about Shoedog, the play he co-wrote. The piece will get its world premiere this weekend with three performances at Quad City Arts, with McBain directing.

Love Letters isn't a typical stage production by the standards of contemporary acting. That's because it's not necessary for performers to act or even memorize A.R. Gurney's script; they just read it. The experience is a bit like listening to a book-on-tape, with the benefit of being able to watch the readers. Some audience members for Playcrafters Barn Theatre's current production - running weekends through January 26 - won't enjoy the lack of stage movement, but those who know what to expect beforehand will appreciate the well-written script.