Joshua Estrada, Craig A. Miller, and Ryan SchabachRyan Schabach is one of the cast members from the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre's three-man comedy The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shakspr {abridged}, and I haven't yet determined if he's (a) an exceptionally good actor, (b) completely out of his mind, or (c) both. I'm going with (c), but if other commitments weren't keeping me away from Clinton for the rest of the show's run, I'd be happy to see it again just to be sure.

Jessica Stratton and Andrew Harvey in St. Ambrose University's Fortinbras was the most thoroughly entertaining theatrical production I've yet seen in 2007. And while, if you missed the show during its one-weekend, three-performance run, I have no interest in rubbing your noses in that fact, I feel the need to write about the experience because I hope that soon (a) you see Fortinbras and (b) you see this production's actors.

Pat Flaherty and Jason Platt in "The Winning Streak" In Lee Blessing's The Winning Streak, the locale is left unspecified; the only information the Tony Award-nominated playwright gives us is that the events transpire in "a city in the Midwest." But audiences can be forgiven for thinking there's nothing unspecified about it.

One of the play's seven scenes takes place "at the end of a dock." Another occurs at a sidewalk café within walking distance of a cathedral and an art museum. And, most tellingly, one takes place "in the stands of a major league stadium," where - to the delight of the show's protagonist - an eternally struggling baseball team is finally enjoying an unprecedented hot streak.

Could this, in fact, be Chicago, and could the beleaguered ballplayers be the Cubs?

Certainly, there was cause for concern.

Reader issue #604 When the Prenzie Players made their 2003 debut with Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, they did so at Rock Island's Peanut Gallery, which didn't have a proper stage and could only seat, at maximum, 40 people. The show had an inadequate budget (between $200 and $300), a run of only two performances, and no word-of-mouth; Prenzie's founders - Cait Bodenbender, John "J.C." Luxton, Aaron Sullivan, and Denise Yoder - had every reason to expect Measure for Measure to fail.

Yet Friday night's show played to a full house. And on Saturday ... .

Katie Holmes and Aaron Eckhart in Thank You for SmokingTHANK YOU FOR SMOKING

Jason Reitman's Thank You for Smoking, adapted from Christopher Buckley's satiric novel, doesn't have much visual flair, but one recurring image in the film lends it worlds of variety: Aaron Eckhart's smile.

Saturday's opening-night production of Aristophanes' The Knights, which closes Genesius Guild's summer season and runs through this weekend, began with a few words from Guild founder - and uncredited Knights scribe - Don Wooten, and it's hard to imagine the evening commencing on a more charming note.

In episode 72 of Gilligan's Island, Hollywood director Harold Hecuba pays a visit and the castaways stage a musical version of Hamlet to try to impress him. For Michael King, who has watched all 98 episodes of the show multiple times, that plotline is a metaphor.

The Prenzie Players are so serious about presenting innovative interpretations of Shakespeare's scripts, they promise audience members "won't forget our shows, ever." Pretty lofty standards for a small group of Quad Cities actors who hold performances in rented found spaces (currently the Rock Island Housing Authority building) and use minimal props, costumes, staging, and production.

"And dream we will, for we are in so odd a world that just to live is to dream." - Segismundo, Life Is a Dream

 

In his aptly titled Life Is a Dream, playwright Pedro Calderon de la Barca suggests that even if life is no more real that our sleeping stories, the Golden Rule still applies. Actions and relationships still have pertinence, and the status of an individual is defined by the opinions of those around him. Calderon's poetic 1636 play continues this weekend as part of the University of Iowa's 2003 Mainstage season.

In this weather, I pity the actors in Genesius Guild's production of Macbeth. In addition to the fact they're on stage wearing three layers of clothing and toting swords, shows are performed at Rock Island's Lincoln Park outdoor theatre, which draws little breeze, lots of bugs, and, of course, heat. Though these aren't ideal conditions for actors, or for audience members, people willing to brave the heat for three hours and put on the bug spray will be more than pleased to see an incredibly well-done yet traditional version of one of Shakespeare's great tragedies.

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