Pat Flaherty and Jason Platt in "The Winning Streak"Lee Blessing's The Winning Streak, currently at Davenport's Nighswander Theatre, is one of those shows that could easily read better than it plays.

This two-man comedy-drama concerns an estranged father and son who tentatively bond during the late-season rally of a struggling Midwestern baseball team; over the course of seven scenes, Omar (Pat Flaherty) and Ry (Jason Platt) squabble, reach an impasse, and begin squabbling again.

How wonderful and humbling the last eight months have been.

As the adage goes, "Dying is easy; comedy is hard." Noises Off sure is. Saying that Michael Frayn's farce requires precision is like saying a fish requires water or Jennifer Lopez requires publicity; the show's very survival rests on the hairbreadth timing of its repartee and comic business. Frayn's work is so tightly structured and its momentum so dizzying that the slightest inappropriate pause can completely knock you out of the show's rhythm, and so I applaud Ghostlight Theatre for not only for tackling the script but often triumphing with it. Dying is easy, comedy is hard, and Noises Off is freakin' hard.

The Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse enjoys a luxury that no other theatrical venues in the area do: Its productions, on average, run about eight weeks each, allowing good shows plenty of time to eventually become very, very good shows. Given this, I'm guessing that the theatre's latest offering, Pump Boys & Dinettes, will, by its closing night on September 17, end up ... fine.

Overreaching in the arts is often a good thing. Take, for example, The Will Rogers Follies, the latest presentation from Ghostlight Theatre, Inc. This is a hugely ambitious musical comedy. Not only does it aim to reproduce the experience of the Ziegfeld Follies stage shows in all their splendor and extravagance, but it's meta-theatre as well. The production is narrated by Rogers (Shane Partlow), who freely admits to being dead for decades, yet Rogers also converses onstage with the actual Ziegfeld (voiced by the show's director, Steve Flanigin), and other performers drop in and out of character to comment on the action as it progresses. Rogers also receives occasional visits from a long-dead pilot (Dr. Walter E. Neiswanger), while we in the audience are treated to musical contributions from others who are, similarly, deceased.

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.

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.

Preparing for a show in the location the set pieces are constructed, rehearsals held, and technical adjustments made is the easiest way to ensure the fluidity of all theatrical aspects as performance time approaches.

Just when I was convinced that Picasso at the Lapin Agile would endure as Steve Martin's wittiest, funniest theatre script, the multi-talented writer/actor/comedian has outdone himself, with the adapted comedy The Underpants.

Melissa Coulter was thrilled when she was asked to direct a show at Ghostlight Theatre. What she didn't yet know was that the show, Das Barbecü, is actually a musical comedy loosely based on Richard Wagner's four-hour Ring opera, is performed in country-western style, and calls for a fairly large cast of about 15 people.

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