I hate The Sound of Music, but on some level, doesn't everyone? The sugar-coated sensibility, the repetitive songs we know far too well, the Julie Andrews wannabes trilling with relentless cheeriness, the use of Nazis as a pesky, simplistic plot device ... . I know that the show is an assured cash cow for producers, but many of us would be happy for the book and score to disappear until the show's hundredth anniversary in 2059. (I'll be dead by then, right?)

I've watched numerous comedies at the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse over the past decade, and I've never seen one that I thought would be offensive to most 80-year-olds. But until Oh Mama! No Papa!, I'd never seen a comedy that would be offensive to everyone but 80-year-olds.

Nobody expected Ghostlight Theatre's transition from unpredictable, infrequent troupe to respectable company to be smooth, and it hasn't been. Yet as it approaches the final show of its 2004-5 season - The Will Rogers Follies, running July 21 through 31 at Davenport North High School - Ghostlight can claim a few major accomplishments that count for quite a lot: It's still around, and it's made its budget.

Moss Hart & George S. Kaufman's 1938 comedy You Can't Take It with You is so sturdy and reliably entertaining that it doesn't take much more than a mediocre version of it to make audiences happy. The current production at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre is significantly better than mediocre - vibrantly played and almost consistently pleasurable - but what's completely surprising is the cleverness and skill behind Vicki Deusinger's staging of it.

The Diary of Anne Frank is practically synonymous with the Holocaust. For this reason, Alan Ross, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities, asked Ballet Quad Cities to create a dance based on the book as part of the community project "Beyond the Holocaust: Lessons for Today."

"This is a true story," insisted Bill Engvall during a recent phone interview. "I was on a plane, and the flight attendant was asking about people who needed a wheelchair. And she actually said to us, 'If you requested a wheelchair, please walk up front and . .. .'" The comedian laughs. "People never cease to amuse me."

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.

The time: the present invaded by the past. The setting: sanctuaries in the southwest desert. The play: Altar Call. And the playwright: Melissa McBain, who has appropriated one of the country's most volatile current debates - where the church stands on the subject of homosexuality - as her play's subject.

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