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.

Once in a while a script lingers in a realm of such greatness that it demands the patience, creativity, and collaboration of the most dedicated and talented individuals in theatre to do justice to the playwright's original intentions.

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.

Sean Leary is sticking to basics. The author and producer of the innovative Your Favorite Band believes - despite the unique combinations of film, theatre, and music media used during the performances - that "a good story will always be the key to a successful show. " We'll see whether he followed this maxim and how local audiences respond to his part-live-theatre, part-film show when Your Favorite Band starts a two-week run August 5 at ComedySportz.

Richmond Hill Players Theatre has done a very good thing. Instead of usual attempts to "wow" audiences with edgy (and, in my opinion, too brilliantly written for community theatre) scripts such as Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile or efforts to appeal to the older generation with shows such as On Golden Pond and Driving Miss Daisy, the organization's current production of Desk Set settles contentedly into a much-needed middle ground.

If Peter Jackson taught the world anything with his epic three-movie The Lord of the Rings series, it's that audiences want their Tolkien to be faithful to the original work. So when Susan Holgersson started comparing J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit with Patricia Gray's script, "I started to realize there was a situation there," she said. Playcrafters Barn Theatre decided about a year ago to do the play, and Holgersson was selected as its director in August.

Ghostlight Theatre's production of the Sam Shepard play True West - running the next two weekends at the Holzworth Performing Arts Center at Davenport North High School - will mark the end of the organization's days as an enigma, putting on shows periodically but infrequently and without any discernible pattern.

Kindertransport is a script full of potential. Unfortunately, on the Playcrafters stage on May 8, the meaning of the play got lost somewhere in the muddle of forgotten lines and lifeless delivery. Directed by Charles Rubovits, Kindertransport (continuing through May 23) is definitely a change for Playcrafters Barn Theatre, which usually sticks to scripts in the adult comedy or mystery genres. I'm glad to see the group stepping out of its usual lighthearted mode into drama, but a lot of elements need improvement before plays such as Kindertransport will be taken seriously.

I always love seeing the plays at Augustana College for the acting skill, detailed and appropriate set designs, and beautifully constructed costumes and props. The musical Quilters - which finishes a two-week run this weekend - is no exception, with an ensemble of seven vocally talented women, live keyboard and fiddle players, and an elaborate display of at least 30 quilts hand-made by Augustana students and faculty.

New Ground Theatre's current show, David Schulner's An Infinite Ache, appears to be a conventional love and marriage story. A man and woman meet, fall in love, and get hitched - nothing unusual. But the script is so intricately crafted that we see snapshots of the couple as they progress through a partnership of more than five decades and take on sex, marriage, children, and death - in a mere hour and fifteen minutes. The fast-paced, natural dialogue travels seamlessly through the years, with no specific scene divisions. Time simply progresses.

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