Debo Balogun and Keenan Odenkirk in Othello

As an Augustana alum of so many years, I was excited to see the opening of the new Brunner Theatre Center on the Augie campus, and especially excited to see its current Othello under the direction of Jeff Coussens. The new theatre facility did not disappoint, and scenic and lighting designers Andy Gutshall and Adam Pfluger, respectively, created a memorable space for the production – minimally designed, yet replete with authentic Arabic graffiti and evocatively low, blue lighting.

Nicholas Munson, Don Abbott, Dion Stover, Vince Solis, Sara Tubbs, and Becca Meumann-Johnson in The Rocky Horror Show

In an October filled with local theatre that includes the likes of Shakespeare, Sam Shepard, and Flowers for Algernon, I was shivering with anticipation: What show would I be assigned this month? Could I handle the depth and power of a classic? Finally, the e-mail came, and I was given the sweetly daunting task of examining one of the most astounding, bucket-list theatrical works I could ever review. Yes! Yes!! YES!!! Thank the theatre gods! I could finally revisit my late teens to dissect the '70s cult classic The Rocky Horror Show!

Lindsay Achenbach, Jonathan Grafft, and Vicki Deusinger in Flowers for Algernon

The awe and mystery behind the technical workings of the brain are topics that have been explored for ages, and in 1966, author Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon was published, his brain-y themes diving deep into our fundamental humanity and the costs of scientific ventures versus their rewards. Having read and enjoyed the novel in high school, I re-read it before seeing the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's and playwright David Rogers' stage adaptation, and am happy to say that director Dana Moss-Peterson and his cast provided an evening of thought-provoking theatre with relatable characters – one that was true to the book and, for me, just as moving.

Adam Cerny, Jason Platt, Pamela Briggs, Nancy Teerlinck, and Jason Dlouhy in Deathtrap

Spoiler alert: Deathtrap, now running at the the Playcrafters Barn Theatre, is awesome. In fact, since I started reviewing a little less than a year ago, this was certainly the most enjoyable night of theatre I've yet had.

Harmony France as Patsy Cline

As I watched the opening-night production of the Timber Lake Playhouse’s Always … Patsy Cline, I kept thinking of the word “harmony.” Thinking about musical harmony certainly was appropriate, as this was, after all, a stage musical. Then I reflected on how harmonies can be calming and tranquil or dissonant and disparate. Yet I still hadn’t been able to place why “harmony” kept going through my mind until it hit me that what I was seeing, hearing, and experiencing was true balance – an interweaving of two very different stories that were connected in the nearly perfect parallel of two actresses' performances. “Yes!”, I thought. “Harmony!”

Brandon Fillette, Stephen Horst, Chris Wren, Tristan Tapscott, Paige Salter, Tom Walljasper, and Morgan McDowell in Million Dollar Quartet

As the saying goes: A picture is worth a thousand words. But could a creative team spin a tale based on that picture and create a nostalgic narrative worth more than words? In the case of Million Dollar Quartet: You betcha!

Beau Gusaas, Craig Cohoon, Josh Weilenga, Mary Dammad, Jordan Smith, Jo Vasquez, Austin Winters, and Alexa Florence in This Side Up

Whenever I see a box marked with an arrow and the phrase “This Side Up,” the words strike me as almost poetic in their simple and straightforward instruction. If only life came with such clear signage! It would sure make living easy. But if that box was heavy and turned topsy-turvy with seemingly no way to right it … . What then?

This is the allegory pursued in New Ground Theatre’s latest production aptly titled This Side Up, whose world premiere I attended on August 26. University of Iowa graduate Kit Grassi, who wrote the work, told our opening-night audience that he drew inspiration from his own experiences and those of some friends but then “blew them up 200 percent,” and that having previously written short stories, this is was first produced play.

Susan Perrin-Sallak, Brant Peitersen, and Mike Schulz in Inheritors

“The word 'theatre' comes from the Greeks. It means 'the seeing place.' It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation.” – Stella Adler

The QC Theatre Workshop's latest production, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (and Davenport native) Susan Glaspell's Inheritors, is rightly the place to look for one's truth in life, and to understand views on a diverse archive of social situations.

Victor Angelo and Joe LoGiudice in The Fantasticks

The Fantasticks, the 1960 musical with a score by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics and book by Tom Jones, is a love story with a twist, and the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre production that I saw on August 11 offered some sweet moments propped against a score I did not particularly care for. Its central idea and story, however, I loved.

Kieran McCabe and Melissa Weyn in Gaslight

It was a dark and stormy night … . No, seriously – it really was a dark and stormy night on August 11, which, fortunately, enhanced the eeriness and prolonged the tension of the opening night for the Timber Lake Playhouse's final production of its summer season.

Pages