Into the WoodsInto the Woods (August 10 - 12, 2007): The Green Room's debut production was Stephen Sondheim's and James Lapine's fairy-tale musical, and many of its cast members had previously worked with director Derek Bertelsen (also the venue's Executive Director) and music director Tyson Danner (the Artistic Director) in the pair's previous, fund-raising performances for the Children's Therapy Center of the Quad Cities: 2005's Ragtime and 2006's The Secret Garden. Both vividly remember opening night.

 

Derek: It smelled like fresh paint.

Tyson: It did. We painted that morning.

Andy Koski, J.C. Luxton, and ensemble members in The Merchant of Venice After six seasons of reverse-gender casting, anachronistic details, audience interaction, and unapologetic tweaking and trimming of classical works, the happily untraditional Prenzie Players have, with their production of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, moved in a truly subversive direction: They've gone traditional. Sort of.

Ben Webb and Veronica Smith in Blood Wedding Federico García Lorca's Blood Wedding isn't a play that's "fun" in any traditional sense of the word; you're thrown into complex states of grief and anger within this classic's first few lines of dialogue, and even the infrequent moments of levity are suffused with dread. (By all accounts, the Spanish playwright wasn't exactly a load of laughs, and for understandable reason.)

Patrick Joslyn and Caitlin Herrera in The Lottery The short stories of author Shirley Jackson frequently kick you in the gut. The current presentations of Jackson's The Summer People and The Lottery at Scott Community College frequently tickle your ribs.

James Bleecker in The Woman in Black There's an awful lot going on in the Harrison Hilltop Theatre's current presentation of the ghost story The Woman in Black - including two concurrent storylines, a wealth of exposition, a pair of actors taking on multiple roles and perspectives, and sound and lighting effects galore - and it winds up being much too much. But I'm generally happier watching a theatrical production that aims for the stars and doesn't get there than one that doesn't reach at all, so it was still easy to enjoy this wildly ambitious, if ultimately disappointing, presentation; I had just enough fun at Saturday's performance to regret not having more fun.

Tom Naab and James V. Driscoll in Angel Street Playwright Patrick Hamilton's Angel Street, the season-closing presentation at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre, was the stage inspiration for George Cukor's mystery/thriller Gaslight, so it's kind of appropriate that the production's gas lights are perhaps its cleverest touch. I'm often remiss in praising the design for Richmond Hill shows, especially given the inherent (and considerable) challenges of theatre-in-the-round. But Angel Street is so technically assured and aesthetically pleasing that I found myself grinning in the first mood-setting seconds of director Tom Morrow's Victorian drama. (I'm calling it a drama rather than a mystery and/or thriller because the show isn't really much of either. But more on that later.)

John Hannon, Michael Kennedy, and Dan Hernandez in Inherit the WindAs its storyline was inspired by 1925's notorious Scopes "Monkey Trial," and its original 1955 presentation a response to McCarthyism, Inherit the Wind is one of those theatrical titles that wears its badges of Importance and Social Relevance on its sleeve. And so it isn't until you see the play (or see it again) that you realize (or remember) just how entertaining it is; Jerome Lawrence's and Robert E. Lee's courtroom drama is less a lecture or a harangue than a juicy, if sentimentalized, episode of Law & Order.

ensemble members of Child's Play Thirty years after the group's inception, executive director June Podagrosi remembers the moment that she and her husband, Victor, embarked on the project that would become Child's Play Touring Theatre, the professional, Chicago-based organization dedicated to producing stage works for children, written by children. Moreover, she remembers the frog and the hillbilly that inspired them.

Dave Adamick, Nikkieli Demone, Don Denton, Vaughn Irving, Hernando Umana, and Brad Hauskins I was really looking forward to the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's production of The Full Monty, but that anticipation was nothing compared to how much I was looking forward to watching Friday's audience watch The Full Monty.

Sheri Hess, Tyson Danner, Jackie Madunic, and Larry Adams in Closer Than EverIncluding pianist Craig Clough, there are five cast members in New Ground Theatre's Closer Than Ever, and at the show's opening-day matinée, that was one more person than the number of people who came to see it. This isn't the sort of thing I'd usually mention right off the bat, if at all, but I think it's an important point to make before proceeding, because while this vocally beautiful offering may be deficient in certain areas, the only thing Thursday's production was really lacking was an audience. And for this particular production, the absence of a crowd proved to be a considerable distraction.

Pages