According to the elusive Theory of Everything, espoused in Jacquelyn Reingold's String Fever, life is composed of a series of hidden dimensions that fold up within one another and overlap, creating unseen, generally unacknowledged connections, and giving meaning to even our most random encounters.

"I think my forte is storytelling. I just like to pretend. And any experience that I have where I believe the actor or actors are as close to pretending as possible? That's what gets me off, man. To me, that's what acting's all about." -- Tom Walljasper

About four months ago, my schedule forced me to catch the first dress rehearsal of Playcrafters' Over the River & through the Woods as opposed to a paid performance, and so I took some personal responsibility for my dissatisfaction with the show; a lot of what seemed to be lacking, I thought, could easily have improved by opening night. It seemed a little unfair to be critiquing a rehearsal. (What better place to err than rehearsal?)

Well, circumstances dictated that I again catch a Playcrafters production before its official opening - I saw the Barn Theatre's Sweet & Hot: The Songs of Harold Arlen at a preview on Monday, May 8 - for which I apologize. But I don't apologize much, because this revue already has the right spirit and a host of good feelings (and good performances) exuding from it. This didn't feel like a rehearsal; it felt like a performance, and a delightful one.

Over the past 10 months, the stage space at the Playcrafters Barn Theatre in Moline has been transformed into a ballpark (for the venue's production of Rounding Third), an Italian villa (for Enchanted April), and the entire town of Bedford Falls (for It's a Wonderful Life).

But these days, after climbing the stairs to the second level of the Barn, the first thing you notice about the set for Sweet & Hot: The Songs of Harold Arlen (running through May 21) is something more unexpected than anything found on those previous sets: a piano.

 

 

Aesop's Dynamic Duo - the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's new family musical - focuses on several of the renowned storyteller's famous characters, and one of its first songs is entitled "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." Bret Churchill plays The Boy, and the actor, with his usual exuberance and vigor, begins the number with: "I'm the Boy Who Cried Wolf / I'm the one who frightened the town / I told them the story / And, boy, it was gory / I told them the wolf ate / the Smith's Bassett hound."

Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound concerns theatre critics who wind up personally involved in the thriller they're reviewing, which puts me in the position of being a theatre critic critiquing a play about theatre critics critiquing a play. Stoppard must love this.

Dave Levora and Darren Pitra - hosts of 97 Rock's "Dave & Darren in the Morning" (airing Mondays through Fridays, 6-10 a.m., on WXLP-FM 96.9) - have had me as a weekly guest on their program for years. Yet I won't kid myself.

In the realm of educational theatre, the rehearsal process for a main-stage show generally lasts several weeks, if not months. It can

be hard work. Yet if the selected material gives actors and directors enough to work with, what could be a laborious process is, for its participants, more often a joy.

"There's something about being in a live theatre," says St. Ambrose University Professor of Theatre Corinne Johnson, "and experiencing that moment with the actors and, maybe more importantly, with the audience.

The Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's latest production is, nearly element for element, an awesome technical achievement. The set, conceived by Dawn Robyn Petrlik, is a glorious mess of artful decay, Ron Breedlove's lighting effects are mostly extraordinary, and the sound quality is superb. (Dave Vanderkamp's continually outstanding sound design is overdue for mention.)

Pages