the Promises, Promises ensemble During a recent post-show conversation, an actor friend and I agreed that perhaps the most exciting moments at any theatrical production are those few seconds before the production even starts, when the lights dim, cell phones (please God) are turned to silent or vibrate, and the venue becomes alive with possibility - with the awareness that, in this live art form, absolutely anything can happen.

Hairspray at the Adler Theatre On August 17, the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia marked the last theatrical production I'd see this summer - the 29th show I caught over the span of 12 weeks - and in truth, I'm kind of bummed that the season is over. But it will be nice to have a few days when I'm, you know, not working, so I'm also looking forward to the fall, when instead of 29 shows, theatre-goers only have the opportunity to see ... 38.

Cristina Panfilio and Jody Hovland A theatre company takes a risk when it changes key elements of Shakespeare, as Iowa City's Riverside Theatre has by switching the protagonist in its presentation of The Tempest from Prospero to Prospera. Turning this male character into a female brings an entirely new dynamic to the performance, yet even though this makes for a unique production, it distracts from the tone of Shakespeare's text.

Chances are you've at least heard of Death of a Salesman; Arthur Miller's play, it seems, is always around. So when Iowa City's Riverside Theatre stages a production of this classic script, they're facing some high expectations. After all, this isn't just any play.

After seeing Riverside Theatre's annual monologue performance Walking the Wire during its three-day run last weekend, I'm already looking forward to next year. Rarely is a collection of monologues presented locally (with the exception of the woman-power fundraiser The Vagina Monologues, which is structured more like a play), and the Iowa City theatre's Wire provides a unique opportunity for viewers to absorb an assortment of unpublished works presented by diverse individuals. While a few of the pieces were lacking in either character believability or author voice, most of the two- to 10-minute monologues were very engaging.

Riverside Theatre's production of Noel Coward's relationship-centered play Private Lives is such a captivating romp through France in the 1920s, and there were moments I was so happily lost in the action, that I never wanted to return to contemporary Iowa City.

Three Weird Sisters, sexy love scenes, sword fights, and murder. I tell you, life doesn't get much better than this. Well, at least for a certain theatre reviewer it doesn't. Not even the mosquitoes could keep me from enjoying Riverside Theatre's summer production of Macbeth at the company's Shakespeare Festival in Iowa City.

Riverside Theatre's presentations of The Laramie Project have been sold out for the past two weekends, which in itself speaks for this powerful and brilliantly crafted play. Protests are even scheduled outside the Iowa City theatre on Saturday, April 12, in response to the play.

Ninja-style nuns, two sets of twins separated at birth, woeful lovers, men vaguely resembling Elvis, and a society divided by religious differences. These and more are part of the annual Shakespeare festival at Riverside outdoor theatre in Iowa City, with The Comedy of Errors and Romeo & Juliet on stage in repertory through July 7.

The three sisters who are the central characters of Shelaugh Stephenson's The Memory of Water at first appear to having nothing in common except their family ties. The caustic dialogue reveals unresolved conflicts that go back to childhood and the different roles each woman has pursued in life and love. But the dialogue also contains much humor and insight that finally leads to acceptance.

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