Matt Moody and Michael Carron in Things Being What They AreThe beauty of New Ground Theatre's comedy Things Being What They Are lies in how our hearts gradually soften for Michael Carron's crotchety, imposing Jack, a rudely forward character who pushes his presence onto his neighbor Bill (Matt Moody), and whom playwright Wendy MacLeod uses to explore themes of marriage and mortality.

Caciona Bernstrom, Chris Page, Ryan Mauritz, Mark McGinn, and Kelly Thompson in Clybourne ParkNew Ground Theatre's Clybourne Park, written by Bruce Norris as a sequel, of sorts, to Lorraine Hansberry's classic play A Raisin in the Sun, takes quite a bit of time to get rolling. But once it does, this exploration of racial tensions at different points in American history is wickedly hilarious. Director Chris Jansen effectively employs a slow, nearly dull pacing to build to a significant payoff, particularly in the second act, when the purposefully bland tone fits the play's scene of a neighborhood-association meeting. Following Friday's performance, I was amused at how, during the presentation, I went from being almost bored to laughing heartily.

The Whipping ManIf I were to detail the plot of playwright Matthew Lopez's The Whipping Man, it would sound like the outline of a soap opera, given that the twists seem so melodramatically shocking. However, the story doesn't play out that way, both because Lopez handles the revelations so well, and because New Ground Theatre presents this story of a Confederate soldier and two of his family's freed slaves with respect and sincerity.

If you're a Simpsons fan and have always wondered what the hateful C. Montgomery Burns would look like in the flesh, you are advised to immediately secure tickets to Augustana College's production of The Miser, in which Brian Bengtson is giving a flawless approximation of Homer's hysterically hateful nemesis.

Augustana College's production of Oscar Wilde's classic comedy of manners The Importance of Being Earnest is perfectly acceptable entertainment, rarely inspired but always watchable. Yet it has the enormous good fortune to feature one performance that shoots way past the acceptable and enters the realm of the extraordinary - David Cocks' portrayal of the delectably devious John Worthing is the sort of riotously funny and brilliantly executed stunt that makes you more than eager for his next appearance; he's so elemental to the show's success that it's nearly distracting when he's not on stage. And here's the kicker: This is freshman Cocks' first appearance on the Potter Hall stage. The mind boggles at what may be in store for audiences over the next four years.

Chris Jansen, the artistic director of the New Ground Theatre, is a self-described "Junior Theatre kid," and has the pictures to prove it. She thinks.

Augustana's production of Storm & Stress (a.k.a. Sturm und Drang) is "an opportunity for local audiences to see a play that they will likely never see anywhere else," said Jeff Coussens, director of the college's Theatre Arts Program.

I always love seeing the plays at Augustana College for the acting skill, detailed and appropriate set designs, and beautifully constructed costumes and props. The musical Quilters - which finishes a two-week run this weekend - is no exception, with an ensemble of seven vocally talented women, live keyboard and fiddle players, and an elaborate display of at least 30 quilts hand-made by Augustana students and faculty.

With The Primitive opening this weekend, New Ground Theatre is doing something it's never tried before, and director Chris Jansen is very excited. The Primitive "is a charming romantic comedy!" she said.

What is truth? This is an age-old question, pondered by millions of people over the centuries. According to the story of Rashomon, truth lies in the eye of the beholder. As the wigmaker in the story says, "People see what they want to see, and say what they want to hear." Unlike many other treatments of the question of truth, Rashomon does not expose truth as absolute; it explores truth as a constantly shifting abstract idea, based solely on the perceptions of humans.