I don't like to start reviews with questions, but New Ground Theatre's current production of Lobby Hero raises some interesting ones. (1) Is a hero someone who, when faced with a moral dilemma, reveals deep dark secrets that will get a friend in big trouble? 2) Does sliding indifferently through life without ever changing viewpoints, challenging ideas, or standing up for personal rights gain someone hero status? The answer to both, obviously, is no. A hero is defined by my dictionary as "a man of great courage, nobility, etc. or one admired for his exploits." So what was playwright Kenneth Lonergan thinking when he used a lazy, noncommittal lobby security guard as a protagonist of his play Lobby Hero?

For 43 years, Don Wooten has been re-writing Greek history. His history lessons are anything but serious or classroom-worthy, and that's all right with him. Wooten, the founder of Genesius Guild theatre group, has most recently altered the more outdated sections of Aristophanes' comedy Plutus to make its already-quirky script even quirkier and more accessible to modern audiences. Wooten has added musical numbers and touches of local humor about bridge construction and the Mallards hockey team, and he addresses national issues such as war, education, President Bush, and television infomercials. With a bit of assistance from Aristophanes, Wooten has produced an appealing script.

Quad City Music Guild's Kiss Me, Kate boasts an ensemble of twenty-some gifted performers, including a tap-dancer whose photograph belongs alongside the likes of Gene Kelly, and singers that demonstrate excellent unity in rhythm. The musical is an entertaining, humorous, colorful, and energizing romp through the onstage and back-stage lives of performers in a Shakespearean play, and this production shouldn't be missed.

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.

Local playwright Chris Jansen recently caught the eye of the media with her innovative musical Journey for a Reason, which is being performed by New Ground Theatre (and directed by the author) through Sunday at Rivermont Collegiate in Bettendorf. But credit should also be given to the young performers in Jansen's theatrical creation; most of them are college students, and one is just starting sixth grade.

Though senior citizens, religion, sex, love, and the timely battle between good and evil are all poked fun at in Circa '21's current show, playgoers should be prepared to see more than just a lighthearted comedy. Almighty Bob is quite a funny play, but it also lifts the veil from the element that is our ever-present fear - death - and gives us the playwright's take on how life and death work.

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.

Not only is Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues sexy, witty, tragic, and downright hilarious, it's also quite an educational experience. For example, I learned the clitoris contains more than 8,000 nerve endings - which is twice as many as the penis. As one actor said, "Why have a handgun when you can have a semi-automatic?" Talk about woman power.

Love Letters isn't a typical stage production by the standards of contemporary acting. That's because it's not necessary for performers to act or even memorize A.R. Gurney's script; they just read it. The experience is a bit like listening to a book-on-tape, with the benefit of being able to watch the readers. Some audience members for Playcrafters Barn Theatre's current production - running weekends through January 26 - won't enjoy the lack of stage movement, but those who know what to expect beforehand will appreciate the well-written script.

"And dream we will, for we are in so odd a world that just to live is to dream." - Segismundo, Life Is a Dream

 

In his aptly titled Life Is a Dream, playwright Pedro Calderon de la Barca suggests that even if life is no more real that our sleeping stories, the Golden Rule still applies. Actions and relationships still have pertinence, and the status of an individual is defined by the opinions of those around him. Calderon's poetic 1636 play continues this weekend as part of the University of Iowa's 2003 Mainstage season.

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