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.

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.

The Allaert Auditorium at the Galvin Fine Arts Center was almost filled to capacity last Friday evening when admirers of Edward Albee, author of such legendary American works as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Seascape, and The Zoo Story, flocked from near and far to see their favorite avant-garde playwright give a public lecture about "The State of the Theatre & the Arts in America."

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.

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