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.

Even though the organization has only staged two plays in its first year, New Ground Theatre chooses to measure success by quality more than quantity. And New Ground has been rising after being started last year by a woman with an idea and funding from local organizations.

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.

In the course of 20 minutes, more than 150 audience members met a principal with a fetish for riding crops and black leather, a "chalk-dust"-using English teacher, and a Latin instructor with bad hygiene. Then the secretary was murdered and dinner was casually served.

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.

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