Christmas can be magical. It’s a time for love, cheer, and miracles. And all three of those holiday attributes are currently being dished up at the Black Box Theatre in its production of It Had to Be You.

I've always enjoyed the children’s-theatre presentations at the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse, and Saturday morning’s performance of Pinocchio brought me yet another magical experience that I thoroughly appreciated. A lighthearted, classic tale about a wooden puppet and his maker’s wish for him to become a real little boy, director Warner Crocker's show emphasizes a positive message about the importance of honesty and is filled with imaginative characters that bring this wonderful story to life.

Lincoln, Booth, and a gun. What could go wrong? As you will come to find out in the latest QC Theatre Workshop presentation Topdog/Underdog, pretty much everything. This production is dark and riveting, even if you can see the inevitable end from the get-go.

Life is full of many different highs and lows that make up the human experience. We may have trials and tribulations, unexpected loss, unforeseen disappointment, and sadness, but we also have happiness, joy, and love. Memories are stored in our brains that, over time, can fade or become distorted. Now what would it be like if we downloaded those memories into a computerized holograph? So goes this science-fiction play by Jordan Harrison, called Marjorie Prime.

Before attending Friday's performance of the Playcrafters Barn Theatre's A Wrinkle in Time, I knew very little about Madeleine L'Engle's beloved science-fantasy novel, save for the recent movie trailer featuring Oprah Winfrey. And as I watched the near-capacity, all-ages audience file in, I could sense an air of joyful anticipation, not unlike the one you might find at the screening of a Harry Potter movie. But by the end of the performance, I felt confused and more than a little disappointed.

Beards, beers, and bucks abounded Saturday night as the Richmond Hill Players presented Escanaba in 'da Moonlight, a comedy written by Emmy-award winning actor Jeff Daniels. The program notes that Daniels, of Dumb & Dumber fame, is primarily a dramatic actor, but make no mistake: This production was straight-up slapstick comedy.

Thirty-five years ago, as her birthday present, I took my wife out for our first “classy” date to the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse. I had arranged for a dear friend (shout-out to Bill Sensenbrenner) to be our Bootlegger, and wanted to treat my wife to the thrill of seeing Circa '21 produce the musical Annie for the very first time. It was an elegant evening boasting a topnotch performance that we both remember to this day. Fast forward 35 years, and we found ourselves doing the exact same thing on November 9 by enjoying an elegant evening of food, friends, and Circa '21’s latest extraordinary production of – what else? – Annie!

Hearings. Depositions. Victims. Accusers. Lies. I am not talking about our recent news cycle, but rather Augustana College’s production of The Crucible. When director Jennifer Popple decided to set her show in the unspecific future, she couldn’t possibly have guessed that 2018, without even trying, would give the play such abundant relevance.

It was Sunday, October 30 in 1938 New York, and the country was on edge as Orson Welles went live via Madison Avenue and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in a Halloween episode hosted by Mercury Theater on the Air. A dramatic, science-fiction radio play, the program caused panic amongst communities who mistook the broadcast for real-life events as alien invaders, described in detail, appeared ready to take over the world.

That's the real-life tale told in the Black Box Theatre's unique production of War of the Worlds: A Radio Play, and while Friday's performance was only about an hour long with no intermission, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Based on the novel by H.G. Wells and adapted from the radio-play script by Howard E. Koch, this singular story directed and designed by Lora Adams is quite different from the theatrical productions I typically attend – and different in a good way.

Playcrafters’ presentation of The Laramie Project is, as you might imagine, not the feel-good production of 2018. But it is a raw and emotional retelling of a story that gripped the world.

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