Before Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein became icons of the 20th Century, they were dreamers. Steve Martin thinks so anyway. In his 1996 play Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Martin explores the unusual (fictional) meeting of young artist Picasso and science genius Einstein before they created history-changing works and ideas - during a time they had only the visions in their heads to rely on. Richmond Hill Players is performing the play in Geneseo through October 13.

If there's a show that will make people question their thoughts and ideas about racism, it's Spinning Into Butter, continuing this weekend at Augustana College in a production by New Ground Theatre.

Ryan Riewerts thought the best way to mark the one-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks would be to travel 226 years back in time. Not really, of course. But he wanted to recognize and celebrate the beginning of America's freedom as a country, and to relate that experience to the uniting of Americans in response to the events of last September 11. He decided the closest thing to time travel would be to use the medium of theatre, two local drama groups, and a musical called 1776. A Riewerts-directed production of that play is scheduled for September 11 through 14 at Davenport's North High School.

After seeing the Friday night performance of Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's latest murder mystery, Fatal Attraction, one line stood out: "The American public will accept anything except being bored." Audiences don't have to worry, because there's no room for boredom during Bernard Slade's two-and-a-half-hour thriller. The action is almost non-stop, the characters are engaging, and the technical elements give the show a nice finishing touch.

In this weather, I pity the actors in Genesius Guild's production of Macbeth. In addition to the fact they're on stage wearing three layers of clothing and toting swords, shows are performed at Rock Island's Lincoln Park outdoor theatre, which draws little breeze, lots of bugs, and, of course, heat. Though these aren't ideal conditions for actors, or for audience members, people willing to brave the heat for three hours and put on the bug spray will be more than pleased to see an incredibly well-done yet traditional version of one of Shakespeare's great tragedies.

When three suitors try to woo a single, fifty-something mother, there isn't exactly love in the air. It's more like disaster and comedy. Circa 21's latest show, Getting Momma Married, is a humorous, behind-the-scenes look at one woman's attempts to find love again.

Ninja-style nuns, two sets of twins separated at birth, woeful lovers, men vaguely resembling Elvis, and a society divided by religious differences. These and more are part of the annual Shakespeare festival at Riverside outdoor theatre in Iowa City, with The Comedy of Errors and Romeo & Juliet on stage in repertory through July 7.

Richmond Hill Barn Theatre in Geneseo is like something from an actor's dream. With "theatre-in-the-round" seating, high ceilings for easy lighting capability, entryways from four sides, and an intimate acting space, one would think any play could succeed with these standards. Even a weak performance can be positively impacted by quality set pieces and a connection with audience members.

Compared to Chicago or even to Iowa City, the Quad Cities' contemporary-theatre base is practically nonexistent. But that could change with the help of one of the area's newest drama groups. With only two staged plays under its belt, the New Ground Theatre Company is already living up to its name.

It's not often that a main character dies more than five times during the course of a story. Or that a young man proposes to an 80-year-old woman. But Harold & Maude at Playcrafters Barn Theatre combines this unusual story with exceptional acting and achieves two hours of genuine laughter, and an appreciation for life and art. Colin Higgins' play is a lighthearted piece in which the lead characters come to terms with death and love.

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