From first scene to last, New Ground Theatre's production of Boston Marriage is an almost total misreading of David Mamet's 1999 work. As usual, New Ground's decision to tackle offbeat and challenging material is commendable, but its latest offering is so wrong-headed in execution that it makes you understand why audiences often shy away from the offbeat and challenging.
Melissa McBain's drama Altar Call, currently playing at Playcrafters' Barn Theatre, is beautifully unresolved. There are many fine elements in this production - along with some not-so-fine ones - yet I was impressed by McBain's willingness to let the drama linger after its close. She introduces potentially volatile subject matter such as adultery, homosexuality, and the dogmatic elements of scripture, yet doesn't attempt to provide easy answers to the play's complexities.

Since 1990, I've attended more than 25 plays at Augustana College, yet I've never seen one that made better use of the Potter Hall stage than The Laramie Project.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, which recently closed St. Ambrose University's 2004-5 theatre season, is a tough play to produce effectively at the collegiate level: How do you present Tom Stoppard's mordantly funny rumination on mortality and the meaninglessness of existence with performers this young?

So far as I know, there are no steadfast rules regarding children's theatre, but two certain "don't"s would have to be: (1) Don't bore the kids, and (2) Don't confuse the kids.

Chief among many surprises in Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's current production of The King & I is the re-discovery of just how funny the show is. For many, myself included, the news of another Rodgers & Hammerstein revival is enough to fill you with trepidation; must we sit through one of their timeless extravaganzas yet again? But it's easy to forget that this theatrical duo is legendary for good reason. Beyond their undeniable musical talents, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote strong, well-constructed shows and empathetic characters, and their productions always feature an intriguing, nearly treacherous dark side; Rodgers & Hammerstein felt no compunction about casually killing off major characters. (Every time I see The Sound of Music I have to remind myself: Oh, right. There are Nazis in this.) And although I'd be content to never see South Pacific again, a recent, invigorating production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's State Fair at Assumption High School was a welcome reminder of the duo's gifts, and Circa '21's The King & I is fantastically fine, engaging and memorable and, to a quite unexpected degree, hilarious.

The Drawer Boy, opening this weekend at New Ground Theatre, is not only an emotional journey through the suppressed memories of two old farmers and a unique observation of the art of storytelling; it also plays an important role in contemporary Canadian theatre history.
When I was in seventh grade, my chorus class took a charter bus up to Chicago to see Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. From a row near the back of the theatre, I watched the vibrant speck that was Donnie Osmond belt out the tunes "Close Every Door" and "Joseph's Coat." On the return trip home, while the chaperone mothers murmured in fascination over the dark-haired leading man, we chorus students amused ourselves with a Joseph sing-along. The music was just that unforgettable and appealing, even to our usually unimpressionable teenage minds.
Just when I was convinced that Picasso at the Lapin Agile would endure as Steve Martin's wittiest, funniest theatre script, the multi-talented writer/actor/comedian has outdone himself, with the adapted comedy The Underpants.
New Ground is one of my favorite local theatre groups because it doesn't settle for slapstick comedies, cliché-filled scripts, or sappy dramas. Instead, the not-for-profit organization with the mission to "bring the best in contemporary and original theatre to the Quad Cities" does superb work living up to that goal. New Ground's upcoming show, Talley's Folly, the recipient of the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for drama, is certainly no exception to the "best theatre" rule and is perhaps one of the most unconventional, intriguing love stories I've ever seen on stage. The production opens August 26 and runs through September 5 at Rivermont Collegiate in Bettendorf.

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