Julian C. Jarrell in OthelloI've seen three or four first-rate portrayals of Shakespeare's Othello over the years, and I always marvel at how both the character and the performer seem to literally grow in stature through the course of the play.

Abby VanGerpen, Jackie Madunic, and Eddie Staver III in The Glass Menagerie There's no playwright, living or deceased, whose words I would rather listen to than Tennessee Williams. And if you don't already share that opinion, the first few minutes of the Green Room's The Glass Menagerie - with actor Eddie Staver III introducing us to Williams' "truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion" - might be enough to change your mind.

Ryan Westwood and Louis Hare in All My Sons As the first act of Arthur Miller's All My Sons nears its climax, the atmosphere is thick with tension and discomfort. A young man has proposed to the former girlfriend of his older brother, presumed dead three years after World War II. The boys' mother, convinced that her child is still alive, is on the edge of a nervous breakdown. The boys' father, obviously hiding some dark secret, appears deeply nervous about an incoming phone call. And in St. Ambrose University's Saturday-night production of this American tragedy, you could tell that its Act I closer was really working, because for a few brief minutes, the audience collectively stopped coughing.

Stan Weimer and Diane Greenwood in California Suite For my money, California Suite is the ideal Neil Simon play, as it's actually composed of four independent one-act plays, giving you far less chance to grow exhausted by his characters' persistent wisecracking.

the Almost Heaven ensemble On Sunday morning, I started writing my piece on the musical revue I'd seen the night before, and here's how I began my first draft:

Greg Bouljon and Mandy Landreth in SylviaChoosing a favorite line of dialogue from A.R. Gurney's Sylvia is nearly impossible, as the playwright's hysterically clever and insightful comedy offers almost too many choices; some of Gurney's best jokes here are so spectacularly subtle that you barely register them. ("Just close your eyes and think of England" is an especially sharp throwaway.)

When Ballet Quad Cities Executive Director Joedy Cook was looking for a new artistic director earlier this year, she quickly rejected Steve Beirens.

"I would get all these résumés," says Cook of her search to replace Matthew Keefe, the company's artistic director for the 2006-7 season. "And I'd watch the DVDs they sent, and I would have all these little piles. And Steve went into this 'no' pile."

Hairspray at the Adler Theatre On August 17, the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia marked the last theatrical production I'd see this summer - the 29th show I caught over the span of 12 weeks - and in truth, I'm kind of bummed that the season is over. But it will be nice to have a few days when I'm, you know, not working, so I'm also looking forward to the fall, when instead of 29 shows, theatre-goers only have the opportunity to see ... 38.

Jeremy Mahr and Maggie Woolley in Arcadia Watching Arcadia, the Tom Stoppard jigsaw puzzle currently playing at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre, is like watching a really engrossing foreign-language film without subtitles. You may not understand what's going on, but the actors and director seem to, so you strive to make sense of the proceedings through the performers' inflections, reactions, and occasional lines of dialogue where the meaning is evident. You find yourself desperately wanting to get it.

Guys & Dolls ensemble members The Clinton Area Showboat Theatre's production of Guys & Dolls is wonderfully entertaining and loaded with personality, but in the role of Miss Adelaide - the put upon showgirl with the psychosomatic head cold - Kay Ann Allmand is so sensationally enjoyable that her portrayal practically defies description.

Permit me to give it a shot anyway.

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